Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams (13 July, 1915, Lewisburg, Tennessee - 14, September 2002. New York City) was an American blues and rhythm and blues saxophonist and composer and precursor of Rock ’n’ Roll. In his Honkers and Shouters, Arnold Shaw credits Williams as one of the first to employ the honking tenor sax solo that became the hallmark of rhythm and blues and rock and roll in the 50s and early 60s.
Paul Williams was born on July 13, 1915 in Lewisburg, Tennessee. His parents were Will E. Jones and Flora Williams. His family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky when he was two and to Detroit, Michigan when he was 13. Williams learned to play the saxophone after his mother gave him one as a Christmas gift when he was 15. He honed his craft through private lessons, playing in his high school ensembles and eventually performing in gigs at Detroit clubs.
"The Hucklebuck", a twelve-bar blues that also spawned a dance craze. He used the billing of Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers thereafter. Charlie Parker had four years earlier used the same riff for his "Now's the Time".
When Paul Williams toured with the Hucklebuck in those days, the crowds got rowdy. With honking histrionics on stage and suggestive dancing offstage, the shows were sweaty riotous affairs that got shut down on more than one occasion, as the sexual energy got just too overheated. Once the band hired a midget to dance up on the bar while they Hucklebucked.
Teddy Reig claims to have taught Paul Williams a little "choreography" to spruce up the show; kicking as he played, bending and dipping, getting down on the floor while blowing that saxophone. The honking, sometimes just one note over and over, turned the horn into a rhythm instrument.
By the early 1950s Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams and his Orchestra were regularly featured at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. They were the backup band for artists such as Big Joe Turner, Dinah Washington, Amos Milburn and Ruth Brown. They were also featured in the Apollo Theatre’s film Rhythm and Blues Revue (1955).
On March 21, 1952 Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams and his Orchestra became a part of rock ‘n’ roll history when they performed at The Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena, promoted by disc jockey Alan Freed. This is often considered to be the music industry’s first rock concert. Because of rampant gate crashing and overcrowding, fire marshals stopped the Coronation Ball shortly after it began. The Orchestra was the only act that performed that night.
Williams later worked in the Atlantic Records house band and was musical director for Lloyd Price and James Brown until 1964. After opening a talent agency in New York in 1968, he rarely performed again.
By the 1980s Williams’ contributions to the rise of a new musical genre were increasingly recognized by music historians and fans. In 1986 he participated as a guest speaker, panellist and performer at a Smithsonian Institution symposium entitled “Rhythm and Blues: 1945-1955,” held at the National Museum of American History.
In 1992 Williams received three important honours. He was invited back to Cleveland where he participated in the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Alan Freed’s Moondog Coronation Ball and was honoured with a resolution of welcome from the Cleveland City Council. The Rhythm and Blues Foundation honoured Mr. Williams with their Pioneer Award in recognition of his artistry and lifelong contributions to rhythm and blues music. Also in December of the same year, The Paul Hucklebuck Williams story was featured in a Life magazine special issue on 40 years of rock ‘n’ roll.
He died of cardiac arrest on September 14th 2002 at Englewood Hospital in Englewood, New Jersey. He was 87. (info various mainly Wikipedia, BlackPast.org & hoyhoy.com)