A Rockapaedia Obituary
Larry Williams died aged forty-four in his home in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. from a gunshot wound to the head on 7th January 1980 and his death was deemed suicide. He was interred at California Interment Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, Los Angeles, California.
Larry Williams, birth name Lawrence Eugene Williams, was born on 10th May 1935 in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A. and learned how to play piano at a young age. The family moved to Oakland, California when he was a teenager, and there he joined the Lemon Drops, a Rythm & Blues group. Larry Williams returned to New Orleans in 1954 and began working for his cousin, singer Lloyd Price, as a valet and played in the bands of Price, Roy Brown, and Percy Mayfield. In 1955, Larry Williams met and developed a friendship with Little Richard, who was recording at the time in New Orleans. Price and Little Richard were both recording for Specialty Records. Larry Williams was introduced to Robert Blackwell, Specialty's house producer, and was signed to record.
In 1957, Little Richard was Specialty's biggest star, but moved away from rock and roll to pursue the Ministry. Larry Williams was quickly groomed by Blackwell to try to replicate Little Richard's success. Using the same raw, shouting vocals and piano-driven intensity, Larry Williams scored with a number of hit singles.
Larry Williams' three biggest successes were "Short Fat Fannie", which was his best seller, reaching number 5 in Billboard's pop chart, "Bony Moronie", which peaked at number 14, and its flip "You Bug Me Baby" which made it to number 45. "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" charted at number 69 on Billboard the following year. Both "Short Fat Fannie" and "Bony Moronie" sold over one million copies, gaining gold discs.
Larry Williams recorded a number of songs in 1958 and 1959, including "Heebie Jeebies" but was convicted of dealing narcotics in 1960 and served a three-year jail term, setting back his career considerably.
Larry Williams made a comeback in the mid-1960s with a funky soul band that included Johnny "Guitar" Watson, which paired him musically with Little Richard who had been lured back into secular music. He produced two of Little Richard's albums for Okeh Records in 1966 and 1967, which returned Little Richard to the Billboard album chart for the first time in 10 years and spawned the hit single "Poor Dog". He also acted as the music director for Little Richard's live performances at the Okeh Club. Bookings for Little Richard during this period skyrocketed. Larry Williams also recorded and released material of his own and with Watson, with some moderate chart success. This period may have produced some of his best and most original work.
Larry Williams also began acting in the 1960s, appearing on film in Just for the Hell of It in 1968, The Klansman in 1974, and Drum in 1976.
In the 1970s, there was also a brief dalliance with disco, but Larry Williams' wild lifestyle continued. By the middle of the decade, the drug abuse and violence were taking their toll. In 1977, Larry Williams pulled a gun on and threatened to kill Little Richard over a drug debt. They were both living in Los Angeles and addicted to cocaine and heroin. Little Richard had bought drugs from Larry Williams, arranged to pay him later, but did not show up because he was high. Larry Williams was furious. He hunted him down but showed forgiveness for his old friend after Little Richard repaid the debt.
Larry Williams posthumously was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame, in a ceremony held on 9th February 2014.
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