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Little Willie John
Birth name William Edgar John[1][2]
Born November 15, 1937(1937-11-15)
Cullendale, Arkansas, United States
Origin Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died May 26, 1968 (aged 30)
Walla Walla, Washington, United States
Genres Rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, doo-wop
Occupations Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1955–1966
Labels King Records

William Edgar (or perhaps Edward) John, better known by the stage name Little Willie John (November 15, 1937 – May 26, 1968)[3] was an American R&B singer of the 1950s and early 1960s, best known for his hits "All Around the World" (1955) and "Fever" (1956), the latter covered in 1958 by Peggy Lee.[4]

Biography

He was born in Cullendale, Arkansas but his family moved to Detroit, Michigan when he was four. This led to a recording contract with King Records and a string of R&B hits, beginning with "All Around the World" (1955). He also recorded "I'm Shakin'" by Rudy Toombs,[5] "Suffering With The Blues", "Need Your Love So Bad", and "Sleep" (1960) (Pop #13).[6] His biggest hit "Fever" (1956) (Pop #24) was more famously covered by Peggy Lee in 1958. Another song, "Talk to Me, Talk to Me" recorded in 1958, reached #5 in the R&B chart and #20 in the Pop chart.[6] A few years later it was a hit once again by Sunny & the Sunglows. In all, John made the Billboard Hot 100 a total of fourteen times. A cover version of "Need Your Love So Bad" by Fleetwood Mac was also a hit in Europe. Another of his songs to be covered was "Leave My Kitten Alone," (1959). The Beatles recorded a version in 1964, intended for their Beatles for Sale album, but it went unreleased until 1995.

In 1966, John was convicted of manslaughter and sent to Washington State Penitentiary for a fatal knifing incident following a show in Seattle. He appealed against his conviction and was released while the case was reconsidered, during which time he recorded what was intended to be his comeback album, but due to contractual wrangles, and the failure of his appeal, it was not released until 2008 (as Nineteen Sixty Six).[7] Little Willie John died in 1968 at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. Despite counter claims, the official cause of death was listed in his death certificate as a heart attack.[3]

Little Willie John was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

He was the brother of singer Mable John, who recorded for Motown and Stax, and the father of Keith John, a long time backing vocalist for Stevie Wonder.[5]

James Brown recorded a tribute album, Thinking about Little Willie John... and a Few Nice Things.

Single discography

Year Title Label &
Cat. No.
U.S. R&B[2] U.S. Pop[8]
1955 "All around the World" King 4818
5
-
1956 "Need Your Love So Bad" / "Home at Last" King 4841
5 / 6
-
1956 "Fever" / "Letter from My Darling" King 4935
1 / 10
24 / -
1956 "Do Something for Me" King 4960
15
-
1958 "Talk to Me, Talk to Me" King 5108
5
20
1958 "You're a Sweetheart" King 5142
14
66
1958 "Tell It Like It Is" King 5147
12
-
1959 "Leave My Kitten Alone" King 5219
13
60
1959 "Let Them Talk" King 5274
11
100
1960 "A Cottage for Sale" King 5342
-
63
1960 "Heartbreak (It's Hurtin' Me)" King 5356
11
38
1960 "Sleep" King 5394
10
13
1961 "Walk Slow" King 5428
21
48
1961 "Leave My Kitten Alone" (reissue) King 5452
-
60
1961 "The Very Thought of You" King 5458
-
61
1961 "Flamingo" / "(I've Got) Spring Fever" King 5503
17 / 25
- / 71
1961 "Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to You)" / "Now You Know" King 5516
5 / -
87 / 93

References

  1. ^ Britannica.com
  2. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 228. 
  3. ^ a b Thedeadrockstarsclub.com- accessed March 2010
  4. ^ Fox, Ted (1983). Showtime at the Apollo. Da Capo. pp. 198–200. ISBN 0-647-01612-2. 
  5. ^ a b "Biography for Rudy Toombs". IMBD. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0867514/bio. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  6. ^ a b "Allmusic ((( Little Willie John > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&searchlink=LITTLE|WILLIE|JOHN&sql=11:hpfyxqe5ld0e~T5. 
  7. ^ Clarke, John (2008) "Little Willie John - Nineteen Sixty Six", The Times, November 22, 2008
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 362. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 







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