R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

The Other Architect


When you hear the early recordings of Larry Williams, such as on his 1959 Specialty release Here's Larry Williams, it's hard not to compare him to his friend and labelmate Little Richard. In fact, he was signed to the label because of the similarity of his sound to the flagship artist. More than a mere copycat, however, Williams went on to have a modest string of hits including "Bony Moronie," listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

The energetic cuts on Here's Larry Williams come fast and loose -- less polished than Little Richard's early work, if you think that's possible. His meaty piano riffs lay out an indelible rhythm on which the other band members hang their groove, blending the sway of R&B with a boisterous flair. Shortly after he joined Specialty, Little Richard left the music business to become a minister, effectively elevating Williams to the Architect's spot on the roster. In 1957, he released "Short Fat Fanny," which hit No. 1 on the R&B chart and No. 5 on the pop chart.

He had a handful of cuts that came close, reaching near the top of the charts, but he never matched the success of that first hit. Drugs took over his life (he both used and sold them) and attempted a comeback now and then. He was found dead on Jan. 7, 1980, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot would. He was just 44-years-old. His influence on rock 'n' roll lives on, however, as do his songs which have been covered by artists such as The Beatles, New York Dolls and The Who.

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