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Black Benny Williams (c. 1890 – 1924) was a New Orleans-based bass drummer of legendary status who played in brass bands in the early decades of the 20th century. Black Benny was recalled by many New Orleans musicians of the era, but left no recordings.

Black Benny was born and died in New Orleans. He grew up in a rough poor African-American neighborhood of the Third Ward of New Orleans known as "The Battleground". He played with such notable brass bands as the Onward, Camelia, and Tuxedo Brass Band, and with such leaders as Kid Ory, Kid Rena, and Wooden Joe Nicholas.

Benny was in and out of jails all his life, and once shot a bystander during a march on Canal Street, and reportedly was shot by a jealous woman. In addition to his work as a drummer, Williams worked as a bouncer and a prizefighter.

An early colleague of Louis Armstrong, Black Benny is referred to in Armstrong's autobiography, and helped look after young Louis during his tough childhood. Sidney Bechet also talks about Black Benny Williams in his autobiography, as does Jelly Roll Morton in his Library of Congress interviews.

References

  • Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong, ISBN 9997226488
  • Treat it Gentle by Sidney Bechet

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