The Black Godfather: Andre Williams
photo by Jimmy Hole, courtesy of In the Red
Interview by Joss Hutton
"Look man, I'm not a liberator, I am an entertainer!"
Joss Hutton, Philippe Korpar-Migrenne and Ski Williams chewed the "Bacon Fat" with one of R&B's wildest, Andre "Mr Rhythm" Willliams. Over the past forty years, Bessamer, Alabama-born Andre Williams has written, recorded and produced some of the most ribald ("Humpin', Bumpin' & Thumpin'"), infectious ("Rib Tips") and downright bizarre ("Please Pass The Biscuits") R&B ever committed to vinyl. Andre kicked off his career with a 1956 US top ten hit, the funky "Bacon Fat", but sadly, despite a slew of gloriously salacious follow-ups - including "Jailbait " and "The Greasy Chicken" - failed to capitalise on his initial success. However, in 1961 a timely haircut saw him cross paths with the then struggling founder of Motown records, Berry Gordy for whom he produced the likes of The Contours and Mary Wells.
Following his refusal to be married-off into the Gordy clan, Andre spent the late 1960's writing, producing and performing for Chicago's Chess and Houston's Duke / Peacock labels, who released such proto-funk classics as his own "Cadillac Jack" and "The Stroke" plus such wonderful discs as "Uhuru (African Twist)" by Jomo, Jeanette William's "Hound Dog", Bobby Bland's "Spotlighting The Man" album and The Meditation Singer's "Change Is Gonna Come" set. Sadly, in the early 70's, Andre's heady lifestyle took a turn for the worst after he was asked to produce Ike Turner. The upshot of Andre's chemical-fuelled association with 'ole Ike was a heavy coke problem that led to a hand to mouth existence for most of the 1980's, during which time Andre even spent a spell begging on a bridge in Chicago.
Happily, Andre is once again the epitome of health, a recent court case has seen him finally awarded royalties from his most popular composition "Shake A Tail Feather" - a 1963 hit for The Five Du-Tones, memorably featured in the films "Hairspray" and "The Blues Brothers" - and he is currently once again electrifying crowds around the world, thanks to the acclaim garnered by such staggeringly sleazy albums as "Silky", "Red Dirt" and "The Black Godfather." However, as the man himself says "You keep jumpin' up to the dick! Let me give you guys a methodical interview, chronological, OK?" Well, you got it Andre...
Q: What was it like growing up in Alabama, do you have any memories of the south as a little boy?
Not when I lived there the first time but after my mother died in 43 they shipped me back to Alabama to stay with my grandmother. I was around 13, not even in the 6th grade. I have to say it was a very hostile place to me. It wasn't a racist thang, cause I've always been clever and knew how to stay out of bullshit so I could deal with it. You didn't like me, I didn't like you so fuck you and we kids keep on steppin' you know.
My grandfather was a primitive, sanctified man. Him and my grandmother. That means seven days a week in church. No rock'n'roll on the radio, no smoking or drinking. The only music I could hear while I was out ploughing in the fields was Hank Williams, Hank Snow, those guys. I did not know anything about Rhythm and Blues - Hank was my God, I loved him. That was all the music that I could hear, for the simple reason that the white people that we were sharecropping for, or with, whenever he would come in his truck you'd hear the Hank Williams music. He would be round all morning so you got the chance to hear ten or fifteen Hanks or Patsy Cline on WLAC.
Q: Wasn't that the station where John Richbourg had his show?
Exactly, WLAC! But he would come at night with the Blues. In the daytime it was all country. John R Richbourg did not come on till around ten o'clock at night until three in the morning.
Q: What was school like in Alabama?
I went back to Chicago in the late thirteen year, 'cause I could not take it down there. Number one see, I was Alabama born but I spoke with a northern drawl and the kids down there, that would fuck their heads up. They had different words. Instead of saying "Throw me the ball," they would say "Chunk me the ball," instead of saying "Over there" they would say "Over yonder" and instead of "The" I would say "Thee," so whenever I was in school I was just the teacher's pet because I just had those words like 'thank you' and 'please' and they would say "Yaassum." So the guys really didn't like me but I've never been scared of ass-whupping - it didn't intimidate me.
Q: Did the girls like you?
The chicks and the teachers man!. Every time a note had to be sent to another office, it was always "Andre, would you come up here please, take this to room so and so," or "Go get the milk." I was always the one the teacher would pick to do all the good stuff. So, after class was over the kids would step up to me and I would step right back up to them. But then it got frustrating because I did not have no freedom. See, my grandmother and grandfather would not allow you to get outta the yard. You could not visit nobody and nobody could visit you. That way they figured you'd stay outta trouble. So I got back to Chicago to my father. He was a semi-player who worked for the steel mill.
Q: What is a semi-player?
He fucked a lot of women, a steel mill worker. You see, at that time, you either worked for the Post Office or you'd work for the steel mill if you was black and a bad motherfucker. 'Cause they was making 35 dollars a week and everybody else was making 12. So if you're on 35 dollars a week you were a real bourgeois, you know. So I did not have much contact with my father. It was like a situation of survival. With my father not being around often I had to go to work to buy little things that I wanted. I went to work washing dishes at one of the famous black cafes in Chicago called Cadillac Bob's Steakhouse. The only problem with that was that I had to go to work at 4 o'clock, getting out of school at 3. I worked till four in the morning, and then I had to be up to be at school at 8.30. That was not gonna work. Those numbers don't work.
Q: What was the place like?
It was a nice black bourgeois steak house on the south side of Chicago. I mean, when you went into Cadillac Bob's, it was generally the guys with the 49 Fleetwood Cadillacs, you know, the pimps, the doctors, the hustlers, the bourgeois, the players...
So, anyway, I got into a major problem at school with truancy because trying to wake up in the morning after working all them hours. I was working twelve hours a night and that wasn't easy.
Q: So you weren't teacher's pet anymore?
They had a truant officer which is something they don't have any more. If you missed school, this guy would drive around town and find you and then you'd go straight to the Juvenile Hall. So after 6 or 7 times of missing school, the judge finally said "OK Andre, you miss another day and you go to parental school!" It's a school where you have 24 hour supervision, you know, you stay in the barracks for 6 weeks. They feed you and everything, it's a state-run institution, trying to rehab you and get you back into the mix. So I went to parental school, I stayed there 26 weeks, 'cause I kept running away! The motherfuckers couldn't keep me. Everytime they looked at me I was over the fuckin' fence and gone. They said "Damn Andre! How do you get outta here?" But they'd catch me in 6 hours or in one day.
Q: Were you already familiar with the blues players working in Chicago?
No. But I was beginning to, by working in the bar. We was right down the street from a club called the 708 Club. Cadillac Bob's and the 708 was just half a block away. You'd go and eat and then you'd go to the 708 club, or you'd go to the 708 and go to Cadillac Bob's. Sonny Boy Williamson, Dr Jo Jo Adams, Andrew Tears, Wynonie Harris, you name it, all of them was playing the 708 club. At Cadillac Bob's we had only records on the juke-box. So by me being the dish-washing and bus boy, I heard them all. But them guys did not impress me as much as Cab Calloway did in Stormy Weather, the movie with Lena Horne. Cab Calloway! Man! When I saw him, I said to myself [slowly emphasising each word] "I'm-a-gonna dress like that man till the day I die!"
Q: Were you also influenced by the Louis Jordan movies?
Well, to me Louis Jordan was too much of an "Eye-bucker." [rolls his eyes and does a superbly accurate impersonation of Louis Jordan] Cab Calloway was himself, wearing the suits and all. Also, he was playing THE clubs, the WHITE clubs. Louis Jordan was only playing black clubs. Well, I'm kinda jumpin the gun, but there's a reason why I should tell you this. You've all heard of Billy Ward & the Dominoes?
Q: Oh Yeah!
Well, when I was in the Navy, we would go to Los Angeles and Billy Ward would be playing the El Mocambo which was one of the biggest fuckin' clubs in L.A.. He was the only black act that could play the El Mocambo. He had a status. In my heart that made him a hero, the way he got there, because in some kinda way, he got there! The next group that got that lucky was the Platters. See, anytime you had a big white rich manager, you could get into them fuckin' clubs. If you were just a great entertainer, then the best you could play was the top flight black clubs. But if you had a white manager, you could play Miami Beach! Like Steve Gibson and the Red Caps. They played the whole fuckin' winter there.
Q: But they probably had to stay in black hotels.
Oh yeah, you couldn't stay in the white hotels. But that was just to get back to the point that I was tryin' to make about the Louis Jordan and the Cab Calloway scenes. The difference in the two entertainers. Cab Calloway worked every fuckin' day because the white clubs would book you for 14 days, 10 days, straight through, where as Louis Jordan would only do Fridays and Saturdays. You see what I'm talking about? And then, the combinations were so much different, cause you ate the best of food. You just could not eat it out there with the white folks, they'd bring it in the back for you to eat and then when you got through with your show, you got back on the bus and you went back across town to sleep.
Q: What did you think of all that at the time, I mean the segregation and all that.
Well, I didn't give it no thought because I knew my place. I knew that these white folks were not bullshitting. Look man, I'm not a liberator, I am an entertainer!
Q: So when would you say you started feeling that you wanted to become an artist?
At that time, around '51 or something, I'm already feeling that there is something going on. I don't know yet that I'm the entertainer cause I never claimed to be a singer. Now this was right during the times that me and school and juvenile courts were having big fuckin' problems. Because my next bus was going to be the State Reformatory School. Because I just had not adapted to what they wanted me to adapt to, so the judge said "If you miss one more day at school, I'm gonna send you to St Charles" which was the State Reformatory School. I'll be goddamned if I did miss the next mornin'! I knew my ass was out then! So I got round to my father's and said "I gotta get outta here". My brother was staying at my auntie's and I asked for his birth certificate and joined the Navy.
Q: So you enlisted, lying about your age?
Yes, I was fourteen! You needed to be seventeen but I had my brother's certificate. The navy was the fuckin' pits man because the recruiting officer had told me I could be in Underwater Demolition. At that time Richard Widmark had The Frogmen out! A good movie I liked a lot, so I wanted to be a fuckin' frogman! The recruitment officer said "Fine, you'll be a frogman."
After Boot Camp, on the morning of your graduation you get this brown sealed envelope, which is your orders, whether you go on a ship, or to submarine school, or bombardier school, or radio school or whatever. I just thought that my orders was they gonna send me to Connecticut for Underwater Demolition. I open up the motherfucker and they sends me to Steward School. Bending over, serving officers! I said "Man, not again!" I'd had enough of these white folks, now I've gotta go suck their dicks and make up their beds, and shine their shoes! I said "No Son!" So, every time they looked for me, I was out. "Fuck you!" you know, you shot me a bad deal! But I went to Steward School in the first place and on the week-ends you would get a pass, a liberty and I'd go to Chicago and I'd sing with the Cavaliers and the Thrills. Monday morning, I'm supposed to be back.
So, after I make up my mind that me and the Navy weren't gonna get married, unfortunately my brother gets drafted. Now, when the people put the two names together, with the same parents, born at the same date, in the same city, the lights went on, "Oh-oh! Something's wrong here!"
Q: What happened next?
Now, I'm moving marines on the USS Compton Destroyer from shore to a hospital ship, under fire every fuckin' night! Boom! Boom! I'm a trainee on the 40 mm. Fifteen motherfuckin' years old, OK? These motherfuckers fly me back to Washington, give me a general Court Martial and send me to the penitentiary for a year! Fraudulent enlistment! On the Court Martial board, I'm sitting with five fuckin' admirals. All stiff, bold, big motherfuckers, you know. My lawyer said "Send this kid home, he's a child!" Then they came back and said "One year in Fort Levenworth, and a dishonourable discharge" and I said [adopts slow dramatic tone] "Kiss-my-ass-mother-fuckers!" So they appealed the case and they sent me back from Fort Levenworth after 6 weeks for a retrial. I go back on the retrial, thinking they gonna cut me-a-loose. Them cocksuckers made the year stick and give me a bad conduct discharge. All they did change was the discharge. You get a red corduroy coat, a Ben Hogan cap, a pair of black pants, twenty five dollars and a train ticket with your choice of destination.
Q: Where did you go?
Well, I thought, I'm not gonna go back to Chicago. You see, a guy I was at boot camp with, Nathaniel Wilson, he was from Detroit and I'd had the opportunity to go to Detroit with him on one of our liberty weekends. So I got to like Detroit and thought I'd get there. So, I'm walking, in Detroit, and I think to myself "Andre, find the main drag, find out where the hustlers are". I'm late sixteen then remember. I knew I was good looking, I knew that if I got a shot with any broads I was gonna eat. So I hit the main strip, which was Hastings Street. There was a theatre by the name of the Warfield Theatre and every Tuesday night it had amateur shows and this happened to be a Tuesday mornin'. You could win twenty five dollars and you get a chance to come back the next week, and the next, as long as you win. So I'm looking at the twenty five dollars situation, I've got about thirteen more dollars left in my pocket. I thought "I'm gonna win this motherfucker". I didn't know if I was gonna sing, dance or what. So when the theatre opened at one o'clock, I paid my forty cents to get in. I sat down and watched a movie and I wrote this song called "Hi Ho Silver." I thought if I could come up with some words and dance my dick off, I'd kick these motherfuckers in the ass and win!
Q: Was there a house band? Did you just arrive and give them the key your song was in or something?
Well there was a three piece, if you wanna call this a house band. They played for everybody. They did not care about any fuckin' key man! The guy would walk up and ask you what do you wanna do. He said "Sing it for me" and that was it. So anyway, nine thirty comes and it's curtain call. The announcer says "Will all contestants please report backstage." My Ben Hogan cap was thrown away but my red corduroy jacket was not bad. So I went back there and met the other guys, there was one who I thought was gonna kick my ass. He played the spoons! Bad motherfucker! On his feet, all over! [Andre demonstrates with imaginary spoons and clicking sounds] So I thought, I'd better do some flips! You guys know what an orchestra pit look like? I thought "I'm not gonna jump in it but OVER it! Right into the centre aisle!"
Q: What actual distance are we talking here?
I have no idea but I misjudged the motherfucker! I tried to turn around and fly in the air and walk back to the stage but it was too late. And down in the fuckin' drums and shit I went! That just cracked the audience up, and when I got back up I danced all down the aisle of the motherfuckin' theatre, up this way, down that way, upstairs, on the balcony's ledge, doin' the fuckin' moonwalk! I won it!
I went back there eight weeks in a row! Then, finally, Miss Warfield called up Miss [Devora] Brown from Fortune Records and said you'd better come and see this lil' wild motherfucker here! So she came, saw me and offered me a contract.
Q: Did you already have your baritone voice at the time?
Well, you see, I had realized that I was not a Clyde McPhatter, I was not a Nolan Strong. And the guys that were selling records were high tenors and I knew that if I didn't come up with something, I was gonna fall through the fuckin' tomb. I had to come up with a fuckin' gimmick! I knew I could not sing like them!
Q: Was there someone in particular you wanted to sound like?
I didn't wanna sound like no-goddamn-body! I wanted to tell stories! I had seen so much bullshit in my life and I said to myself "Andre, if you could ever say things that relate to people..." I'll tell you somethin' fellows, the first line of communications was the drums. That was in Africa, the Congos, the Mongos, and all them 'gos. When they was doin' communications, it was with the drums. So if I could get a drum rhythm which captivates people and put a hell of a story on top of it, I can't lose. And that's where I went.
Q: A lot of your early songs are related to food products. "The Bacon Fat," "The Greasy Chicken," or "Pass the Biscuits Please." Could you tell us a bit more about that?
When I came up with "Bacon Fat" I was travelling from Detroit to Memphis. That's when I knew that I had to come up with a gimmick. So I stopped in Memphis and I got an egg and bacon sandwich - on toast! I'm driving and a lot of places where we used to travel, it was only a two lane highway so you'd see the cotton pickers on both sides and I'm driving and [starts tapping a beat on his thigh, starts humming] "Down in Tennessee... and the name of the dance is..." and I had the sandwich in my hand and there it came, "The Bacon Fat!"
Q: What about the "Diddly diddly whomp" bit?
Well that bit came from something I stole from the Coasters in "Down in Mexico." [Starts singing] "Down in Mexicali...boom doo wop boom." I was just tryin' to figure out how the fuck I was gonna eat!
Q: What was Devora Brown like? We've heard that she was quite a strange lady. Is she really in a mental hospital now?
I've heard, yeah. She always was strange. Number one, the Browns were two Jewish people who don't trust nobody. You've got to understand that first. But they were always very good to me! So when I got back from Memphis, I called Miss Brown and I said "Miss Brown! I wanna record tomorrow! They did say that you want to record me!". She was recording in the back of her store with just a load of old black RCA microphones and she'd give the guys ten dollars apiece and there was no problems.
Q: Was she paying any Union fees?
There were no fuckin' union man! We were just a bunch of bootlegging motherfuckers! No, Devora Brown had no idea about payin' royalties!
Q: Were you upset when she wouldn't let you out of your contract when you got "Bacon Fat" leased to Epic records? She could have sold you for a lot of money.
That broke my heart! That fucked me around but, fellas, out of any bad situation something good can be coming out. If it hadn't been for that erratic, crazy shit that Devora Brown pulled, there wouldn't be no Andre Williams today because the records wouldn't have been classics!
I appreciate Devora Brown for this reason; she probably saved my life. Had I went back to Epic for that second record I might have started drugging or OD'd because I was too arrogant! I hadn't matured. I hadn't had enough in the mind. I mean, it took me sixty-one years to get to London! That's a long time. I might not have gotten here had Epic got that second record. By Miss Brown being as she was, I had to go back to Fortune and it kept me sheltered from the real world. You know what I'm tryin' to say? Epic got very pissed at Miss Brown! There had been an agreement with Epic and Miss Brown had first refusal after the second record, so when she cut "Jailbait," she thought that song was gonna be big enough to put her label out there, nationally. We were considered a territorial label, only for a small market. So she had figured "Now I'll put Andre back on my label" and Fortune would become another Atlantic or something.
That was her strategy OK? Had she been smart... She already had Nolan Strong! If she had been a smart lady she would have produced me for Epic and kept Nolan for Fortune and got rich! But at that time there was no such thing as a producer, so nobody knew about this producing situation. That's where Berry [Gordy]'s genius came in! Berry got all of the acts, the men that were good then and didn't quite make it. He brought them into his staff and called them producers and let them train the green horns! You know what I'm talkin' about?
Q: How did you first get into Motown, was it straight after you left Fortune?
The Motown thing came about from a favour. I was in a barber shop getting my hair done. Berry Gordy was working in a car factory and my barber knew both of us. So when I get my hair done, my barber pointed at him and said "Andre, there's a guy I want you to meet who writes songs and if you can help him I wish you would." So after Berry got his hair cut I put him in my car, went to his house, listened to his songs and I said "You can write man!" I gave him the President of United Artists's phone number and told him to call up and that started Berry up. Me and Berry had a bond.
Q: Did you feel like he owed you?
No I didn't feel like he owed me shit! I was tryin' to get money. Followin' the cash! I needed to pay for all them suits!
Q: What was the first song you produced for Motown?
The first song was with Stevie Wonder. It was probably never released, it was called "Thank You Mother." We did it with me, Berry Gordy and Mickey Stevens. Stevie Wonder was a real nuisance, he knocked the pianos out of tune all fuckin' day. He kicked the drums over and bust a fuckin' head to the point that we said "Keep this little motherfucker outta here!" But he stayed in there until people just got to like him cause he was learning how to mimic everybody. He'd get on the phone and say "Hi, this is Andre Williams, I want to get some studio time for so and so" and they'd believe him.
Q: What? He was imitating your voice on the phone?
Yeah! And I tell you, he could mimic! He called finance one Tuesday mornin' and said "Hi! Cut a cheque out to Stevie for $25,000." Them motherfuckers cut the check out! He didn't take it. He went and got the check, took it back and sat it on Berry's desk. Berry went fuckin' mad. The girls at finance kept saying "Berry, I swear he sounded like you!" So that's when Stevie got all his props and everybody started saying "Yeah, that cat's got talent!" He could mimic man! Once he popped it in his ears he could bring it out and sound just the same!
Q: Did you really produce the Contours? We've been speculating that you may have been behind "First I Look At The Purse."
No, not that one but I did all their stuff after "Shake Sherry Shake."
Q: Your name appears on "Oh Little Boy" by Mary Wells. That's a fantastic record!
That was on the other side of "My Guy." Well, here's the story behind it. At Motown, they had a chart. Let's say there was nine producers on stand. The artists' names would be up there and the deadline date to have your material in on that artist if you wanted to be considered for the next release. This is where Smokey [Robinson] and Berry used to kick our ass! Because after all of the producers had done their shit, Berry and him would come in 24 hours under deadline with the best fuckin' records. I had "Oh Little Boy" up until six hours before the decision was made and that's when Smokey went in and got "My Guy" [for the A-side]. I had to admit it, it was the best record. I know "Oh Little Boy" is a motherfucker but "My Guy" is an ass kicker! I had to go for it because we had a situation where us producers had a camaraderie. We weren't competing against each other as a person. We was competin' as artists! So if you had the best record, well, you just had the best fuckin' record!
Q: You went on to produce lots of other bands on different labels. Can you tell us about "Shake A Tail Feather", it must be your most successful song.
I wrote the song originally for the Five Du-Tones, a vocal band and I also recorded it with Alvin Cash (and the Registers). I also did "Twine Time" with him. When I cut Alvin and I got a hit on him, the same way the American system works, the white boys moved in and he chose a white producer. You know, "We're gonna make you a star, why don't you go with us?" and then, when comes session time, Alvin doesn't want Andre to produce it. What a dumb motherfucker! I mean, I would've always stuck with the cat that got me there in the first place! But he wanted to go with them. Alvin needs producing 'cause there's no talent there, he's just a voice on a record you know
Q: Didn't you only recently get the money from "Tail Feather"?
Yeah, I had five lawyers from Universal who flew down. I kicked their ass! I got some of it back...
Q: Your singles on Checker - "Cadillac Jack," "It's Gonna Be Fine In '69," etc. - feature clear references to the world of pimps and hustlers. How was it perceived in a time when black activists and liberation movements were starting to be very powerful?
I'm not sure. [Pauses] I met Martin Luther King when he came to Motown to sign his deal for the march in Detroit. I felt that it was his job. Now, I can put it a little more cold blooded by saying that was his hustle! Everybody's got a hustle. Now, the word hustle sounds dirty but hustle is as real as the police! So I give him all the credit in the world for being the best at what he was doing - you understand? And he did it well. But me, I'm not gonna do nothing that's gonna cost me my life. I'd rather not run for Mayor, Governor or none of that shit where you're gonna come and kick my ass for doin' my work! I'd rather be Andre sayin' that shit. You love me and we ain't got no problem. [Laughs].
Q: What were the Chess Brothers like?
A lot of people had a lot of negative things to say about Phil and Leonard Chess but I have lots of respect for them. Them guys took care of their artists. Now, if you don't have an education... that's why both of my boys do and I never had a job in my life. You must have some knowledge of what's going on. Now these people that was recording for Leonard & Phil was accepting all the perks and then when came royalty time, it wasn't there. They thought they was cheated! Hell, no, they weren't. The men was given Cadillacs, the men was put on projects. How fair can you be when you give the motherfuckers some money before they perform! That's really fair to me! Like the Browns, the Chess Brothers were two of the greatest Jew-boys that were ever born in the world.
Q: Speaking of Jewish people, we hear you are a recent convert to Judaism. How did that come about?
Well, I met a lady who I like real well and she's from the Naftali tribe, she's Jamaican. She's a lawyer and she said "Well, Andre. If we gonna do something, you've gotta skin down!" [Laughs]
Q: Was it err.. painful?
Well, it was an experience! I went to the doctor's office and I'm thinking that I'm going first for the interview you know. So when I got there, I had the $350 in my pocket, the doctor said it was gonna cost me that. So I said "OK, when do I come back?" And the doctor said "No, we'll do it right here!" Sweat started popping on my motherfuckin' head and I said, you mean you really are gonna do it right now?? He said "Yeah" and sat me on this fuckin' table and said "Drop your pants!". I dropped my pants and he grabbed my dick and said "Oooh! This is gonna be good! She's gonna love this!" [Everyone laughs, loudly] I swear! Man, I looked around and I said "Doc, you know, err, I'm err..." He got the needle and said "I don't put my patients to sleep. This is much better, I know what I'm doing." He popped me the first time with the needle and by then I'm embarrassed like a motherfucker and I keep rolling in my seat you know. Then he got an even bigger needle and by that time, everything was dead and he was just "Crrrr crrr shhccrrr..." [Everyone laughs but are shuffling uncomfortably on our seats with our knees kept very tight together indeed. Andre is obviously enjoying this tremendously] Now this is kinda strange, like cutting through material - "Crrr. shhcccrr ssshh!" [More horrible sounds] He was playing with bits of cotton and dabbing here and there, and then the worst part about it was that he set the dead meat up on the table! [Screams of disgust!] Then he told me "Do you wanna see what I cut off?", I said "Yeah" and looked over and I see this big ol' dead piece of meat with blood and everything! Then he sewed it up and put a big ol' bandage on it. No sex for ten days!
Q: Err.. could we get back to the music? You haven't told us about your work with Ike Turner yet. How did you meet him?
I wasn't aware of Ike's history at the time. What happened was that I was runnin' into deep shit with the police in Houston and B.B. King gave me a plane ticket, we were friends for a long time. He just couldn't understand that I couldn't get my act together. So I flew to California and I started working with Ike and Tina Turner. The guy was a genius, like Berry Gordy. You see, Berry was one of the greatest record producers that I've ever seen, but I didn't like him! I respected him but I didn't like him. He was a control freak, a maniac... but a genius. I liked Ike Turner but I didn't respect him! [Laughs]
Q: You had a hard time during those eighteen months with Ike?
Yes. I coulda been dead. You know how your mother would have little porcelain elephants or whatever, on the kitchen shelves, like salt and pepper shakers. Well, every single one of these in Ike's house was full of coke! You could either pick the neck down or move a leg and shake a gram out of it! Full of coke! When I went to work with Ike I was weighing 185 pounds. At the end I was 85 pounds! I was hemorraging and I was sitting at La Guardia Airport wiping blood with the tail on my shirt and trying to tuck it back so I could get on the airplane - to get home, to get well, 'cause I knew I was dyin'. Luckily I got home and it took me about 9 months to recover from that. That's why I left 'cause I would have been dead. You see, I am bit of a greedy man! I don't know how to take things in moderation when it's good. Good pussy, I want it all! Good coke, I want it all! That's why I'm glad I never did experience heroin 'cause I know I woulda been dead. You know, it was just that simple.
Q: How are things now for Andre Williams? Where's your inspiration currently coming from?
You come up with stuff about what the fuck happened yesterday! Always in life, fellows, if you wake up tomorrow, something's gonna happen in that day that the world can relate to. You just got to find that one thing that happened. And then put your own self in it. Me and John [leader of the Countdowns, his backing band for the European tour] have been putting some bad shit together, just riding up and down the highway.
My answer to your question would be.....[Very long pause]..... If you go fuck three girls in one week, you fuck all three of them good! You know what I mean? If you do a song, put you heart in it! Don't come up with no bullshit lyric! Come up with the real lyric! If the word is "Take it out, let me see it", then say it! Don't say stuff like "Ooh, you look kinda mysterious to me." That ain't sayin' the same damn thing!
Like this new song I just wrote called "Autobahn." The theme is fantastic, it goes like this "I work sixteen hours a day, I don't have time for foreplay. When I get there I want it ready to do what we gotta do. So I'm writing the Governor a serious note. Get some cash if you want my vote. While you're up in the mansion havin' fun. Delegate some money and build an Autobahn!" [Laughs] (Ed note: What would Kraftwerk say?)
Get me to the pussy fast man! And that's LIFE! We ain't got time in life nowadays! There just ain't enough time in the day to pay all the bills, raise your kids, try to stay healthy. So you can't go home and end up being rubbed on the head and all that shit. Fuck that! Get in there as soon as you get there! Get busy. So you can get some sleep and get up in the morning and do it all over again.
Thanks go to Andre, Philippe, Ski, Mark & Sarah @ Mute, Hannah @ Fathom and Giles Duley.
Also see this 2017 tribute article to Mr. Williams
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