Andre Williams is a true musical journeyman. Now a most ripe 76 years old, he's had the kind of career that seems like it could hardly be real to us 21st-century folk. He came of age in a time of segregated lunch counters and when musicians -- particularly ribald ones like him -- couldn't even title a song "Shake a Tail." So he called what went on to be one of his early R&B hits "Shake a Tail Feather" instead.
Williams has worked in the music business, both as a performer and behind the scenes, for more than five decades now. He spent some time under Berry Gordy before Motown Records became "The Sound of Young America" (but not long before), and even a couple of years in Houston as A&R director for Duke/Peacock Records. He had near-final say over which artists were offered contracts by the label, and would supervise recording sessons for the likes of Bobby "Blue" Bland. Mostly, Williams remembers, he hoped he didn't incur the wrath of notorious label boss Don Robey.
"Working for Don Robey, anytime you missed the ball, the consequences were great," he laughs. "Don Robey was a very, very hard man to work for."