Episode 3:  Jack Williams

Episode 3: Jack Williams

Jack Williams is a national class guitarist/singer/songwriter based in Columbia, SC. He is outstanding among the handful of artists who - in skill, depth and integrity - are simply beyond the pale of the average club artist on the circuit. Among acoustic guitarists he is near-legendary. Having avoided the compromises of the commercial music industry during his 39-year professional career, he has preferred working the road, playing coffeehouses, concerts and festivals week in, week out, from the sheer love - and respect - of music.

Jack has been writing since 1970 and has a new CD of original music, Across the Winterline, on his own label, in addition to Dreams of the Song Dog on Nashville's Winter Harvest Records, and Highway From Back Home, his 1993 independent CD. In 1980, one of his songs was recorded by Tom Jones as a single and an album cut.

Jack's friendship with two great singers had an enormous impact on the rest of Jack's career. In 1973, his relationship with the late Harry Nilsson resulted in an album effort at RCA during a year of music-industry turmoil. Since 1993, he has occasionally toured as sole accompanist to his friend, legendary songwriter Mickey Newbury, with whom he recorded a live album, Nights When I Am Sane, on Winter Harvest. In 1996, Jack co-produced, played and co-wrote a song on Mickey's newest CD, Lulled By The Moonlight, which made Billboard's CD pick-of-the-week. Jack is currently involved in helping Mickey complete his life's work in performing and recording due to his friend's poor health.

In the past few years, Jack has emerged from self-imposed obscurity to find new audiences in the contemporary acoustic - or "folk" - music world. This has brought him much attention and led him to acclaimed appearances at several music festivals and venues as well as at the Folk Alliance Conference in 1997 in Toronto, where his guitar-playing, songs, and commanding personal presence caused a buzz in the folk community.

As a singer/songwriter, Jack has opened for Dave Mason, Dar Williams, Tom Paxton, David Wilcox, John Gorka, Steve Forbert, Jonathan Edwards, Nicolette Larson, and Leon Russell. As a guitarist, he has been invited to accompany Tom Paxton, Lucy Kaplansky, Ellis Paul, Tom Prasada-Rao, Dayna Kurtz and Caroline Aiken.

From 1958 through 1987, Jack was probably best-known as an electric guitarist in several influential rock bands. In the late 60's, he began exploring his troubadour nature and started to perform solo, singing and playing a gut-string guitar, traveling coast to coast. Before becoming a writer, Jack drew music and inspiration from the likes of Jesse Winchester, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Willis Alan Ramsey and Ray Charles. When the spirit moves him today, hundreds of songs from favorite writers spring readily from his lips and fingers.

As a hired-gun guitarist in the 60's, Jack worked shows with John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Turner, Jerry Butler, and Hank Ballard, and later opened performances by the Allman Brothers, Delbert McClinton, and Arthur Conley. His bands also backed up such artists as the Shirelles, the Del-Vikings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Coasters, the Drifters, and the Platters.

Jack's career has been nothing if not eclectic. He played trumpet in a jazz quartet in a beatnik coffeehouse in Seattle in 1959 - reading poetry to the audience during breaks. He learned banjo and mandolin to spice up folk groups in the 60's. He played pedal-steel guitar in a country-rock band, and composed chamber music for strings, winds, piano and voice for which he won a national arts grant in 1967. He also played classical guitar/lute in a Renaissance ensemble.

Jack Williams is truly a melting pot of all these influences, and combining them with his guitar, voice and songs, he creates all-American southern music that should not be missed.

Duration: 09:24

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