Joe Williams Blindfold Test

Published in Downbeat Magazine, Volume 28(19), p. 37 (1961-09-14)

item thumbnail for Joe Williams Blindfold Test
Joe Williams and Count Basie
Image credits: University of Idaho Leonard Feather Collection

Leonard Feather: The Blindfold Test with Leonard Feather. Today's guest, Joe Williams. Once again, greetings and modulations, this is Leonard Feather welcoming you to another session in which we examine the perception, knowledge, and opinions of one of the great figures in contemporary music. We're happy to welcome on this occasion a gentleman whom we've known as a friend, and admired as an artist for some six or seven years since around the time he joined the Count Basie Organization, of course he's out on his own now, and enjoying the same great success as a single that he did with the Basie Group, and we're very happy to welcome to Los Angeles, and also to say hello to Joe Williams, as he joins the Blindfold Test microphone. Good evening, Joe.
Joe Williams: Good evening, Len. It's a real pressure to be here with you on the Blindfold Test.
Leonard Feather: Well, Joe, as you know, it was about a year ago that we did our last Blindfold Test in Down Beat, and at that time I concentrated rather heavily I think on blues singers, I think more than half the records I played were in that general category. So I thought maybe for a change of pace, and because you yourself have directed yourself in a more general sphere of singing lately, in other words showing that you have a great deal more to offer than the blues, not that the blues isn't a magnificent entity in itself. It might be of interest to play some records of something in the general sphere of pop singing as well as just blues, all right with you?
Joe Williams: Wonderful, because I think some of the pop singers sing with a lot of jazz feeling.
Leonard Feather: There's no question about that, and you may agree about some of the particular ones that I've selected for the particular occasion now. So we'll go to record number one, and here it is.
Leonard Feather: Sammy can't hear me, but this is Sammy Davis Jr. Well, I said we were not going to play blues records exclusively, but I didn't say we weren't going to play any, as you gathered no doubt. How about that, Joe?
Joe Williams: Well, this is a really exciting performance by Sammy Davis, who obviously loves Ray Charles.
Leonard Feather: He got me so excited that I told the audience who it was, and I said, "Sammy can't hear me, but this is Sammy Davis Jr." I'll switch that around, it was Joe couldn't hear me.
Joe Williams: Yeah, that was Sammy Davis Jr., and I think I recognize him a few moments in the background there that sounded a little like, a little of the Basie Group. The tenor solo sounded a little like Frank Foster.
Leonard Feather: That's right.
Joe Williams: The lead alto Marshall Royal was riding back there in the background with that pretty sound of his.
Leonard Feather: Yes, as a matter of fact it's just about the entire Basie Band as you probably know. Do you have this album?
Joe Williams: No, I don't have this particular album.
Leonard Feather: But you know about it?
Joe Williams: I think this was a ...
Leonard Feather: You know the kind of ... you know the origin of this material-
Joe Williams: I know how this came about, yes, because I was pretty close to it at the time that it was ... that they were getting it together. The fellows were talking about it. I didn't go to any of the dates either. Is that a Decca Recording?
Leonard Feather: That's right.
Joe Williams: Aha, then I guess it was done in Decca Studios, huh?
Leonard Feather: I suppose so. What do you think of the recording?
Joe Williams: Yeah, I didn't like it really.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, that's what I gathered from your expressions while listening.
Joe Williams: Yeah, I didn't liked that. The sound, there was a lot of harshness there, it sound as if the band was way away from Sammy, and a-
Leonard Feather: So there's too much echo?
Joe Williams: Yeah, rather than him singing with the band, it sounded more like he was performing with a track, and it just didn't have the spontaneous feeling, the spontaneous feeling that usually would go along with a Sammy Davis type of thing, and I love Sammy. I think Sammy is one of the most terrific performers we have. He's been concentrating quite a bit on acting, and other things, and not so much in the record field in recent years though.
Leonard Feather: Well, this was made during the last year, and I've heard it said that Sammy is a singer without originality, without personality. I still think he's a wonderful singer, and I wonder if you think that that has any validity as a criticism, that he doesn't have a style or a sound of his own, and he sings other people's hits and so forth.
Joe Williams: No, I like some of the things that I've heard Sammy do. For instance, This Is My Beloved.
Leonard Feather: Oh, yeah.
Joe Williams: Beautiful Thing by Sammy, I haven't heard it done any better by anyone.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Joe Williams: Also, from Porgy and Bess this thing.
Leonard Feather: You got me, I forgot the title.
Joe Williams: Bess, Where Is My Bess.
Leonard Feather: Where Is My Bess, yes.
Joe Williams: Where Is My Bess, I don't think anyone ... I haven't heard a recording of this by anyone any better than Sammy Davis' recording, for feeling, for good sound Sammy is very much in tune on these things, and I love it. I think he's a tremendous artist.
Leonard Feather: What people are afraid to admit about him I suppose is that everything he does, he does well, they find that hard to accept. You know what I mean?
Joe Williams: Oh, yes.
Leonard Feather: They got to find some weak area.
Joe Williams: That's true.
Leonard Feather: Well, guess we have to have a rating ... Oh, if you're busy drinking the coffee I don't want to interrupt it for your rating, however we'd like to get along to the next record, so there is the hammer.
Joe Williams: Leave a star rating on this record, all right, we'll give this one two stars.
Leonard Feather: Two bells for Sammy Davis Jr., and we have a record coming up now. I'm not quite sure if you heard this artist before, or if you'll recognize him, but it's of some interest I think. Here is record number two.
Joe Williams: Len, that was Mississippi's Mose Allison.
Leonard Feather: Oh, you're too hard to fool.
Joe Williams: I like this man, he's a versatile artist. He plays good piano too, as well as being a real different sound, a vocal-wise. I haven't heard anybody sound like this. The only one person I can think of who I could compare him with, and that's Hoagy Carmichael.
Leonard Feather: I often think of that, you know. He has a great resemblance to Hoagy.
Joe Williams: Yes.
Leonard Feather: Vocally.
Joe Williams: Yes.
Leonard Feather: Hoagy's from Indiana.
Joe Williams: Really? I really ... Is he really a Hoosier? I wonder sometimes when I listen to him and Johnny Mercer, if they're really a Hoosier or if they are from further South. I wonder.
Leonard Feather: That's interesting.
Joe Williams: That's a good record. I have to give that one three bells.
Leonard Feather: Good enough, three bells.
Joe Williams: Easy listening.
Leonard Feather: Three bells for Mose Allison. You know the rating, four bells is very good, and if ever it gets beyond that we have the panic button there for the possible five star attractions, but we don't have those but very, very rarely. Who knows what might happen next. Here is record number three, another male vocalist.
[Plays "Ruby" by Ray Charles, from ...Dedicated to You, ABC Paramount Records (1961). Personnel: Ray Charles, vocals; Marty Paich, aranger.]
Leonard feather: You heard that one before, Joe?
Joe Williams: I heard it once or twice, Leonard, and the singer is Ray Charles, and uh.
Leonard Feather: It's not the Ray Charles Singers however.
Joe Williams: It's not the Ray Charles Singers, you better believe it. It's not even The Raylettes.
Leonard Feather: No, I don't think so.
Joe Williams: No. I'm pretty funny about tunes like this, things like Ruby, and Stella by Starlight, and even Stardust, and a few others. There are things I like to hear instrumentally.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Joe Williams: Excuse me, and I don't particularly care for the lyrics of them. I don't even sing them, I don't know the lyrics to any of these things because I don't ... I listen to it like a Bob Farnham thing on a ... Robert Farnham or Pete King type arrangements, you know, or Percy Faith, something like that for listening pleasure. The lyrics of these things never really get to me storywise, and consequentially ... but I don't ... I just don't dig the lyrics on them or songs being sung like that, but I like the pretty melodies. It's a beautiful thing, and a beautiful arrangement. I don't even know whose arrangement it is, but it's wonderful. I don't have this record either, but because of the beauty of the arrangement, and the easy listening quality of it I'll give it two stars.
Leonard Feather: Two bells, all right, that's for Ruby by Ray Charles, with Marty Paich's arrangement. He wrote the album, Marty Paich, that's right.
Joe Williams: Beautiful, Marty Paich. Beautiful.
Leonard Feather: They've done some great vocal and accompaniment work.
Joe Williams: I love Ray on things like Come Rain or Come Shine.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, I prefer that kind of ballad for him, sort of a blues.
Joe Williams: I mean, it is, you know?
Leonard Feather: I personally don't dig Ruby as a material for any singer with any kind of jazz association. I just don't think it's right.
Joe Williams: I think it would be fine in a story.
Leonard Feather: Maybe so, yeah.
Joe Williams: On the stage or in a motion picture, in a story where the girl was a real character, a real-life character such as Sadie Thompson in Rain, or maybe another ... a Laura type character.
Leonard Feather: There was no context like this, it's fairly meaningless, I think.
Joe Williams: But it is to me anyway.
Leonard Feather: Well, that makes two of us.
Joe Williams: But beautiful arrangement.
Leonard Feather: It's true, it's a beautiful performance.
Joe Williams: He sings it easy, but I'd rather hear Ray sing, "Come back, baby, let's talk it over one more time," you know?
Leonard Feather: Me too.
Joe Williams: It brings a tear into my eyes, and I begin to realize. Everybody, like some people maybe would rather just hear me sing Everyday I Have The Blues.
Leonard Feather: I take great delight in hearing you sing it myself, but I don't think you should stop there. I think it's foolish to limit yourself to anything when you feel you have another string to your bow. You've been wise that way.
Joe Williams: Thank you so much, Leonard. I'm very happy with the new bit that we're doing as a soloist, and it gives you a wider scope. I plan to do some religious things, some spiritual things, and some folk songs too.
Leonard Feather: Great, anything you can do.
Joe Williams: Possibly some classics, and try to broaden the scope as much as possible.
Leonard Feather: I'm with you.
Joe Williams: Good deal.
Leonard Feather: All right, record number four. Rather a strange one.
Joe Williams: Well, I'll tell you what, Mel Torme is going to try a lot of strange things. He has the talent to do it, and he is a lot of things that either Mel probably wants to do, and writes, and thinks about. I'm surprised he hasn't done a play or something, done a Broadway thing.
Leonard Feather: He should.
Joe Williams: That's right, because he has so many facets, so many talents, and he's such a versatile performer, and an excellent actor. I saw him on TV a couple of times, and was very impressed with him. The guy has good strength, and gets into his character there, in the things that I've seen him in TV. I'm not prejudiced because he's from Chicago too, an old Hyde Park friend of ours.
Leonard Feather: Yeah. Do you happen to know where this song is from?
Joe Williams: No, I don't. I don't know where this particular tune is from.
Leonard Feather: A Broadway show.
Joe Williams: Aha. Which one?
Leonard Feather: Irma La Douce.
Joe Williams: Ah, Irma La Douce. My friend was speaking to me, and telling me I should see Irma La Douce, and I had taken her advice ... if I had just taken her advice I would have seen it, and would have known where it was from and everything.
Leonard Feather: Well, that wasn't important anyway, because we were mainly concerned with your reaction to Mel, of course by now...
Joe Williams: Oh, I love him. I love him. I caught his opening ... I caught Mel's opening in the Roundtable in New York City.
Leonard Feather: Oh, how was it?
Joe Williams: It was so beautiful. Wonderful. Tommy Potter who was on bass with us over at The Cloister. Tommy Potter was with him that night, and I took notice that he was sight-reading his act, and sounding very, very good. They had a good act, a real great act. Mel's going back in there, I understand, which is the mark of good acting.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, sure.
Joe Williams: Mel he has such a beautiful little ... a beautiful voice, and his voice is getting bigger. I was trying to say beautiful little voice, but he has a ... his voice is getting much bigger in sound, and with his innocent face of his I don't see how he could be, his voice could be coming from a prison cell. I don't believe him. Just tell him I don't believe when you see him.
Leonard Feather: You have a point there maybe.
Joe Williams: But for the very fact that he is doing something that's so different, and so ... that he dared to do something a little different than the average singer is doing today, it isn't easy to do these kind of thing.
Leonard Feather: That's true.
Joe Williams: I don't think it is anyway. I'd like to give it three bells.
Leonard Feather: All right. Are we set up with the next record? Do we have the track selected? I believe we do, and here we go. Here it is.
[Plays "Everything Happens To Me" by Buddy Rich, from Sing and Swing with Buddy Rich, Norgran Records (1955). Personnel: Buddy Rich, drums, vocals.]
Leonard Feather: Well, Joe, and that was about one-third of the way through, I asked if you knew who it was and you said, "No." I figured I finally stumped you, but now there's a gleam of recognition in your eye.
Joe Williams: I'm going to take up drums next week, that's all I got to say.
Leonard Feather: Oh, no.
Joe Williams: It dawned on me that Buddy, when he was with Verve, Buddy Rich when he was with Verve Records did make an attempt at being a singer, and I used to kid him about it all the time. I'd walk in a club and I'd say to him, "Buddy, do you have your AGVA card?" And stuff like that, you know giving you an AGVA card, "I'm not going to let you sing anymore." Because he's one of my favorite people, definitely one of my favorite drummers, and Buddy makes what we call in our family a nice noise.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Joe Williams: He makes a nice, pleasant, even, easy noise singing, and my friend associates everything with noise, mentions when Buddy is playing drums she says, "Now he makes a nice noise on drums." When she hears a Sinatra record or something like she says, "Hmmm, that's a nice noise." When Harry Sweets Edison plays trumpet she says, "He makes a nice noise, and Joe Newman, he makes a nice noise on a pretty," she calls him the Elegant Mr. Newman, "a pretty noise on trumpet." So we've come to associate almost everything with noise, and Buddy made a very nice noise there.
Leonard Feather: Good enough. Well, did you identify him by knowing him from his speaking voice? How did the little flame of recognition sparked?
Joe Williams: Well, in listening to the record I began to listen for inflections and things that would familiarize ... that sounded familiar to me, and all of a sudden... "This couldn't be a young man." There's another young singer I know, I've worked with him up in Buffalo, he's a swinging singer, his big record I understand was this thing ... Steve Allen's called This Could Be The Start Of Something Big.
Leonard Feather: Oh, yes.
Joe Williams: I couldn't think of his name for the life of me, and then all of a sudden the sound of Buddy's voice actually came to me.
Leonard Feather: That's what I mean, I think if you know his speaking voice as well as you and I do that's going to identify him.
Joe Williams: Not only that, there was the throwback to that Axel Stordahl type background sound too to help me. That was that Alex Stordahl type background, the type thing that Sinatra used to do shortly after he left the band, and of course Axel did things for Tommy Dorsey too.
Leonard Feather: I think Matt Dennis was an arranger for Tommy's band when he wrote this song too.
Joe Williams: That's true, and I thought immediately of Matt, and then this fresh sound acted, "Oh, I don't know who this is," when you asked me, and then in listening, and concentrating it came to me that it was Buddy Rich.
Leonard Feather: Well, let's go with the bells. Three bells for Buddy Rich's record of Everything Happens To Me from his Sing and Swing with Buddy Rich album on Verve. Thank you, Joe. I'd like to take just a moment out now for station identification.
Leonard Feather: This is Leonard Feather with The Blindfold Test, our guest today is Joe Williams, and we're coming up now with record number six for Joe's consideration ... identification.
[Plays "Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World", by The Four Freshmen, from The Freshman Year, Capitol Records (1961). Personnel: Bob Flanigan, vocal, bass.]
Joe Williams: That's the first time I ever heard Bob Flanigan sing a solo. That sounded like Bob Flanigan to me.
Leonard Feather: That's amazing.
Joe Williams: With the Four Freshmen.
Leonard Feather: Uh-huh.
Joe Williams: It's the first time I've ever heard him do a solo.
Leonard Feather: I'm afraid you're right.
Joe Williams: Oh, man.
Leonard Feather: You are just the unfoolable Joe Williams.
Joe Williams: No, I wouldn't say that, but Bob is, if you must know, I ran into the Freshmen in Chicago, Illinois while I was still singing with Jay Burkhart's Orchestra.
Leonard Feather: Oh, yes.
Joe Williams: We only have the off nights in the Blue Note when it was still in the basement there, on the Madison Avenue between Dearborn and Clark, and working the two off nights during the five-day week with Jay Burkhart's Orchestra. The mainline, the headline out there I think was a fellow named Harry Belafonte, this was in about '49, and he was singing ballads and things like that. This is before he came back to New York and started to do the folk work. One night Jay Burkhart brought these young men, these four young men in to sing for Frank Holstein, and for the Blue Night Group ... the Blue Note Group rather. I heard the Freshmen, and then I worked the job with them sometime after that in '49 at a bowling alley, in a lounge in a bowling alley, way out South, someplace south of Chicago.
Leonard Feather: I forgot they had bowling alleys in '49. Now they have one on every block.
Joe Williams: That's right.
Leonard Feather: It was every other block.
Joe Williams: Yes, and I worked with these fellows, and I loved them. I still think that the Baltimore Oriole that they did years ago, I think that has never been touched as far as I'm concerned.
Leonard Feather: That was beautiful sang.
Joe Williams: Beautiful Baltimore Oriole that the Freshmen did, and for Bob, we'll give Bob three stars.
Leonard Feather: All right. I suppose that was probably Bob doing the bass solo too. He doubles on bass and trombone, and since they featured him as a solo vocalist there.
Joe Williams: That's right. That was probably Bob doing both.
Leonard Feather: They don't mention it in the liner notes, but they don't mention very much of anything in the line of notes so you can't figure it out.
Joe Williams: This is such a great tune, I don't think anybody has done it except Peggy Lee, and possibly this group.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Joe Williams: It's such a good tune.
Leonard Feather: One of the cute 16-bar thing, it's fun.
Joe Williams: Beautiful tunes. Show me the way to get out of this world because that's where everything is. Everything is going, I don't want to stay here. Who wants to stick around and watch the world disappear?
Leonard Feather: Have you sang it?
Joe Williams: No, I never use this piece of material, and it's a beautiful piece of material. If I can get the right arrangement on it someday I'll do it probably.
Leonard Feather: On the picture I get ideas. All right, record number seven, a young lady.
Joe Williams: The singer is Gloria Lynne with a big band. Gloria Lynne does much better work, much better than this.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, I think I agree with you, because it's so impossible to even pretend that you're wrong about anything, Joe. You have to admit it's Gloria Lynne, you did right every time so far. If I would have played you the most obscure singer from the most obscure town in the farthest state in the union you'd probably know who it was.
Joe Williams: You're being very, very kind, and when you're like this I get a little wary because-
Leonard Feather: No, I'm not trying to fool you, and I haven't succeeded anyway, but it's Gloria Lynne, and I agree she can do a lot better. What do you think was wrong?
Joe Williams: I don't know. You don't know what goes wrong in a record day. I found a lot of things done to me, I found out...
Leonard Feather: It was in the wrong key or out of her range, something?
Joe Williams: No, I don't think it was out of her range. You see, a singer has a certain timbre, and in that timbre they can perform to their best advantage, and they sound better within that range. Gloria has a very wide range, and I don't know whether this particular arrangement was constructed to show off her range or what, but I didn't, I just didn't care for it. If I ever get to be big enough in the business I'm going to censor this kind of thing as far as I'm concerned in my own work.
Leonard Feather: You mean if you met something like that, that you wouldn't have it released?
Joe Williams: Yes, I wouldn't want this kind of thing released at all for me.
Leonard Feather: No, I'm inclined to agree, and I think Gloria is a wonderful singer, as you probably know I gave her a rave writeup in Down Beat not long ago. I say, "She's going to be the next big singer," and I saw her on the Belafonte Spec shortly after that, and I was convinced that I was right, but I'm kind of disappointed with this record.
Joe Williams: I am too. I am really disappointed with this because Gloria has done some wonderful things for posterity, for generations to listen.
Leonard Feather: Is that a record label?
Joe Williams: I don't know.
Leonard Feather: This is Everest.
Joe Williams: This is Everest, for generations to come, to listen to, and hear.
Leonard Feather: It's not a bad name for a label company.
Joe Williams: No, Posterity, it's very good.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, I can imagine it. I just made a session, a wonderful session for Posterity. Somebody's going to latch on to that.
Joe Williams: But Gloria, I imagine herself pretty much as I do, I don't have as yet a great deal to say I intend to have more to say about the kind of thing that's going to be released where I'm concerned. I think that every singer likes to work toward that point, especially if it's a conscientious person if they do.
Leonard Feather: Sure, how about the arrangement in the recording here?
Joe Williams: Once again the band sounded as if they were in left field, and she wasn't singing-
Leonard Feather: Or Ebbets Field.
Joe Williams: Yeah, with the band. This becomes quite a problem it seems with almost everybody except labels like Columbia and Capitol, they seem to get this perfect marriage between background and foreground, and they get the right things in there. These companies work beautifully that way I think. I've heard some things, big band things where the band was just up just enough, it was pulled in just enough, and the singer's voice was upfront just enough, and it sounded as though there was a live performance almost, but ... This is the effect they're really trying to get I think, record-wise, if you can, because I still like to ... records play ... Records are very fine to have in the home, and fine to listen to when you want to hear sounds, but a live performance of any artist is one of the most electrifying experiences that you'll ever want to have in your life. George Herring and I, we were talking about this, and we were saying, "What a pity so many people would never hear Billy Holiday with a Bobby Tucker, or wouldn't hear Ella Fitzgerald with a Hank Jones," or sometimes with Davney, and Ellis Larkins accompanying certain singers, and Gerald Wiggins. I heard Gerald Wiggins one night with Ernestine Anderson, and to me this was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had in my life, listening-wise. More vocal performances should be recorded on the job, that's what it boils down to.
Leonard Feather: That's right, Sarah Vaughan with Jimmy Jones. Well, Sarah made some good things on the job, she recorded Mr. Kelly's in Chicago, and a bunch of others I think.
Joe Williams: Yes, well, this were after Jimmy left her, and I haven't-
Leonard Feather: Yeah, that's right.
Joe Williams: I haven't ... I've been pretty busy during that time in fact, that they were making this record. I think we were at the Regal Theater, and as you know when you play a theater you're in there all day long, and I didn't get a chance to do much listening to this kind of thing that I'd love to. I even hadn't a chance to catch up on one of the things I think is Sarah's greatest, this thing that she did that Hal Mooney arranged for her from Porgy and Bess, My Man's Gone Now. I think that this album is probably one of her best efforts, and I haven't had a chance to sit down and listen to this like I would like to.
Leonard Feather: There was just too much going on, and too many records coming out anyway. It's hard to keep up with everything.
Joe Williams: Well, I just stopped traveling with the Basie Band now, and I'm starting my own act. This is like in the first month I'm starting my own act, after I get squared away, and I can take a little time off to sit down, and lay down in the middle of my floor, and listen to my stereo, and hear some things, and pick up some records, and things that I want to hear. I'm going to catch up on a lot of things. Ray Charles, I'm going to catch up on him. I'm going to catch up on Sarah I'm going to catch up on Ernestine Anderson and Wes Montgomery, and all these things are in the back of my mind to do, God willing.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, so many wonderful things are happening.
Joe Williams: Oh, yes.
Leonard Feather: Did we get around to discussing ... Well, the arranger incidentally on this was an old Basie associate of yours too.
Joe Williams: Ernie Wilkins.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, it's Ernie Wilkins. Good guess.
Joe Williams: Kicking and jumping. I had ... We just did an album with him, Leonard, which I am very happy with. I only heard the flat dubs, the things hadn't been edited yet, but Harry Sweets Edison has orchestrated, and his quintet, and we only added one instrument, Barry Gailbraith on guitar, which is quite an additional lead.
Leonard Feather: That's right.
Joe Williams: Ernie's charts are still greatest for small combo or big band. I must also get Ernie's album, what is it? Here Comes Mr. Wilkins.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, it's on vinyl.
Joe Williams: I must get this too.
Leonard Feather: He has two albums out now, the same label as this as a matter of fact, Everest.
Joe Williams: I must hear these two.
Leonard Feather: Let's rate Gloria Lynne on posterity records now, let's go ahead.
Joe Williams: Gloria Lynne.
Leonard Feather: Two bells for this particular performance by Gloria Lynne, but she's more than a two-bell performer. I think she's going to agree with that.
Joe Williams: I think that she's a ... there are times when she's a panic button performer.
Leonard Feather: That's true. All right, here we go with the next one.
[Plays "Smack Dab in the Middle" by Connie Francis, from Connie Francis at the Copa, MGM Records (1961). Personnel: Connie Francis, vocals.]
Leonard Feather: Well, needless to say, I only played that because this song was one of your big hits with Basie, and I wanted to confuse. Well, maybe I finally got you to the point where you're not quite sure who it is. You were talking about in-person performances, as you notice this was.
Joe Williams: Yes, this was an in-person performance.
Leonard Feather: Did it help-
Joe Williams: Only one person comes to, well, a number of people came to mind while the record was playing, and hardly enough I think almost all of them worked with Stan Kenton one time or another.
Leonard Feather: No.
Joe Williams: This one, this might be an Ann Richards, I don't know. I have no idea who it is, but-
Leonard Feather: Contrary to our usual custom, Joe, incidentally I have not been telling the audiences, the audience in most instances tonight what the records are, because the singers in most cases don't give us a chance to get a word edgewise, so I've been leaving them in the dark along with you.
Joe Williams: Oh, my God.
Leonard Feather: So the audience doesn't know at this point, at least I imagine most of our listeners were not familiar with the singer, will not be aware who this was. It's not a former Kenton vocalist, that much I'll tell you.
Joe Williams: It isn't?
Leonard Feather: Well, let's get to the main issue, which is how good or bad, or indifferent was it?
Joe Williams: This record had a little spontaneous feel to it, and they were ... there was a little thought put into it because the lyrics would changed some, and it was a thing where the crowd was participating what have you. It had a pretty good feel to it, but they seemed a little fast to me because I like it a little bit slower than that, even for a live performance, but when you're on stage a lot of things, a lot of temples will pick up on you. I didn't get it, I was so busy listening trying to hear the inflections, and the sound of the voice, and guess who it was until I didn't really hear the record as such. I was busy listening to the singer, and trying to decide whether it was Anita O'Day trying to ... saying that I'd want to sing it at the Met, which brought a big laugh on the group, from the people who were listening. Rudolf Bing, and a picture of her singing for Rudolf Bing at the Met would really be something. Anita O'Day that is. She was in my end at that time, then a few sustained things brought Ann Richards to mind, but I didn't know exactly who this was at all. You really had me fooled.
Leonard Feather: Good.
Joe Williams: You have me fooled.
Leonard Feather: All right, you give us the rating, and we'll give you the answer.
Joe Williams: The rating for this record I'll give it two bells.
Leonard Feather: You're very generous. I see, what was the first record we played tonight that you gave two bells? We have the list there. Let's have a look. I have a feeling you gave two bells to something else that ... Thank you. Yeah, Sammy Davis you gave two bells. You really think this rates along with a Sammy Davis record?
Joe Williams: I didn't like the Sammy Davis record, and I told you I love Sammy, but Sammy I told you I like the things that ... I named some of the things that I like with Sammy. It's like, and stuff like that.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, I know. Still if I had a choice between Sammy singing Smack Dab in the middle of this young lady, there wouldn't be much doubt in my mind which I'd take. However, this is all my opinion, as I constantly have to remind myself every week, it's not my business to put words in anybody's mouth. I would have given it about a half a bell. It's Connie Francis.
Joe Williams: Connie Francis, that was Connie Francis.
Leonard Feather: Singing at the Copacabana, and I never heard any song less suited to an artist or any artist less suited to a piece of material.
Joe Williams: Well-
Leonard Feather: Come on, Joe, be honest, do you really disagree with that?
Joe Williams: Well, I'm not familiar with Connie Francis or her work.
Leonard Feather: No, but you heard what she sounds like here.
Joe Williams: Yes, I did, and she has this knack of sounding like other people from time to time. There are many other singers that you can compare her with, from things that I hear of hers, that I hear abjectly I guess I must say because I don't listen to her as a singer. Connie Francis is a very popular artists with a lot of people, as there are many popular artist, but I don't listen to her as I say I listen to an Ella Fitzgerald or-
Leonard Feather: Yeah, I understand.
Joe Williams: Or I do many other artists that are favorites of mine.
Leonard Feather: I'm not going to guide you in any direction or continue the conversation because I would like to get another record in, Joe, and I think we just about have time for one more fast one. This is some special blues as we're going back to the blues again for our last track. Here we go.
Leonard Feather: Joe, I'm so sorry, we didn't have to time to finish that one, but it's a very long track, and we have very little time left unfortunately, about a minute and a half, in which you can synthesize your feelings about what this represents.
Joe Williams: Well, I think that this is a real fine record, it's a ... the truth, as I know it, it was from the fellows who do this kind of thing. They've been doing it for many, many years, and do it better than anybody else I know.
Leonard Feather: You know where it comes from probably.
Joe Williams: I imagine from Chicago, around 35th Street, 31st Street, where the fellows are still doing this kind of thing.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, I figured you'd recognize the style if not the individuals.
Joe Williams: Oh, yes.
Leonard Feather: Let's have the rating on that.
Joe Williams: For this one I would have to give it four bells.
Leonard Feather: Very good, four bells for Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Lightnin' Hopkins, and the fourth member is your namesake, Joe Williams.
Joe Williams: Oh, yes, I remember Joe Williams, he has been recording for many, many years. He's been recording since at least 1935, '36, '37, I think.
Leonard Feather: Since you started on the scene I guess.
Joe Williams: Oh, yes, I just came out of high school then, and I wasn't doing anything big. I was singing with Jimmy Newman's orchestra on the air there for about $10 bucks a week.
Leonard Feather: How about that? Well, it's nice we managed to close with a member of the Joe Williams clan.
Joe Williams: Wonderful, really wonderful.
Leonard Feather: Joe, it's so pleasant having you here, always the most articulate of blindfoldees, and I just want to wish you continued success with your solo career. Many, many thanks for being our guest.
Joe Williams: It's always a pleasure to be with you, Leonard.
Leonard Feather: Tune in again same time next week for Leonard Feather and the Blindfold Test.
Preferred Citation:
"Joe Williams Blindfold Test", Leonard Feather Blindfold Tests, University of Idaho Library Digital Initiatives Collections
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