Willie James Mabon (October 24, 1925 – April 19, 1985) was an American R&B singer, songwriter and pianist.
Born and brought up in Hollywood, Memphis, Tennessee, he had become known as a singer and pianist by the time he moved to Chicago in 1942. He formed a group, the Blues Rockers, and in 1949 began recording for Aristocrat Records and then Chess Records.
After military service he became a popular entertainer in Chicago’s Black Belt. His biggest success came in 1952 when his debut solo release, "I Don't Know", written by Cripple Clarence Lofton (who received no royalties), topped the Billboard R&B chart for eight weeks. It was one of the most popular releases of its era and was Chess's biggest hit in the period before the successes of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. It was also one of the first R&B hit records to be covered by a leading white artist, Tennessee Ernie Ford. Mabon's original was played on Alan Freed's early radio shows and also sold well to white audiences, crossing over markets at the start of the rock and roll era.
Mabon returned to the top R&B slot in 1953 with "I'm Mad" and had another hit in 1954 with the Mel London song "Poison Ivy". Throughout his Chess tenure, piano and sax were consistently to the fore rather than guitar and harp, emphasizing Mabon's cool R&B approach. His original version of Willie Dixon's hoodoo-driven "The Seventh Son" bombed in 1955, as did the remainder of his fine Chess catalogue. Mabon never regained his momentum after leaving Chess and record releases in the late 1950s on various labels were largely unsuccessful.
He stopped at Federal in 1957, Mad in 1960, Formal in 1962 (where he stirred up some local sales with his leering "Got to Have Some"), and USA in 1963-1964. Mabon sat out much of the late '60s. but came back strong after moving to Paris in 1972.
During the 70s and 80s, he would flit back and forth between Chicago and Europe, making occasional albums for German and French labels, most of which were poorly received. He toured and recorded in Europe as part of promoter Jim Simpson's American Blues Legends tour, recording The Comeback for Simpson's Big Bear Records and an album for Ornament Records in 1977.
He found a wider audience in Europe, playing the Montreux Jazz Festival and festivals in Berlin and Holland. A polished performer, with a measure of glossy sophistication to his singing, Mabon retained a strong affinity with the earthier aspects of the blues and was an influence upon Mose Allison.
He died in April 1985, after a long illness, in Paris. He is buried at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Cook County, Illinois.
(Info mainly edited from Wikipedia & All music)