Robert Pete Williams

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Biography

Robert Williams, the son of sharecroppers, was born March 14, 1914 on Mr. Anderson's Place in Zachary, Louisiana. He was unschooled and worked as a farm hand. His first instrument was a home-made cigar box guitar he obtained in 1934. He worked frequently at local dances, country suppers, parties, and fish fries while continuing to work outside of music in the Zachary and Baton Rouge, Louisiana areas through the 1930's and into the 1950's.

Williams server time for murder at Angola State Prison farm in Angola, Louisiana from 1956 to 1959. While in prison he recorded for the Louisiana Folklore Society and Folk-Lyric/Arhoolie labels. While on servitude parole he from 1959 to 1964 he worked outside music except for some recording for the Prestige-Bluesville label and a few concerts.

His subsequent career included tours of clubs, universities, and festivals in both the U.S. and Europe. He recorded for both U.S. and European record companies and appeared in U.S. and European films. He died of heart disease on December 31, 1980 in Rosedale, Louisiana and is buried in Scotlandville.

"He is almost, in himself, a definition of the country bluesman -- a poet of his own experience, his language and idiom coming from the hard country background that shaped him"
-- Samuel B. Charters, The Legacy of the Blues, 1975
"Robert Pete is a real rural bluesman, whose music is tough, mean, and, above all, impassioned like the man himself"
-- Pete Welding, Downbeat magazine, Nov. 3, 1966, p. 27

Discography

Robert Pete Williams was an extraordinary and unique bluesman. Williams credited Lemon Jefferson as a major influence however his guitar playing and vocal lines are reminiscent of no one. His performances were off the cuff and his lyrics were stream of consciousness, combining to create an intense listening experience.

Some of his songs include: Angola Penitentiary Blues, Come Here and Sit Down On My Knee, Death Blues, Farm Blues, Free Again, Goin' Out Have Myself A Ball, Got Me way Down Here, High As I Want To Be, Levee Camp Blues, Lord, Help Poor Me, Pardon Denied, Again, Prisoner's Talking Blues, Rub Me Til My Love Come Down, Talkin' Blues, Vietnam Blues, You're My All Day Steady and My Midnight Dream.

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Joel Snow
Created July 3, 1997
Revised July 3, 1997