By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The road led him everywhere, and follow-ups such as "Jailbait" established him as a street-level poet unafraid to toy with even the most taboo subjects. Williams worked every chance he could, bringing crowds to their knees with his acrobatic moves and sizzling, increasingly raunchy spiels. After the British Invasion hobbled R&B, he was active as a producer (at Motown and Chess) and writer (his "Shake a Tail Feather" became a standard - which today, in a rather deliciously perverse irony, Okie wunderkinder Hanson often use as their opening number).
By the mid-'80s, though, Andre seemed past it, lost in a dope-addled fog, living in Chicago homeless shelters and panhandling at the same train station every morning. Presumed dead by many, living on handouts, he all but gave up, until one of the El Dorados approached him on the street, telling him about a local blues producer who recorded R&B veterans for the European market. Soon, Billy Miller's NYC indie Norton was putting out new and old Andre records. Williams found himself on what he refers to as "the alternative circuit," where, of course, the crowds go positively ape. To see an originator like Williams not only recalling but also avidly expanding his singular style - often reaching outrageously pornographic levels - is exhilarating, almost profound.
"It takes me back to what I'd seen the giant artists do as a kid back at Club DeLisa in Chicago," he says, still struck by the unlikeliness of it all. "The Countdowns back me, and they do it well - they're not polished musicians, but they are great talents, so I figure that opposites attract, and you got two extremes meeting each other, and the sincerity is there on both angles. And it took me to a completely higher level - of intensity, of sincerity and of emotions.
"My songs are very, very draining, very emotional, and now the music is right there with it, and it's up there where I always really thought I could take it. I've been trying for years to take it to that level, and now I've got it tuned in."
Andre Williams appears at the Viper Room on Thursday, September 10.