Paul Williams is best remembered for his smash hit ‘The Hucklebuck’, which topped the R&B charts for 14 weeks in 1949, and stayed in the listings for 32 weeks. The record popularised a dance craze and led to a follow-up from Paul’s ‘Hucklebuckers’ some months later, but he was more than just a one-hit-wonder.
Born in Lewisburg TN in 1915, Paul was a tenor sax player who started playing dance music when he was just out of high school in the clubs of Detroit, where his family had relocated. As the post-WWII entertainment boom got going, Paul joined Clarence Dorsey’s band in 1946 before switching to King Porter the next year.
When he struck out on his own as a bandleader, he soon had a good hit with ’35-30′ on the Savoy label, followed by ‘Walkin’ Around’, both records making the R&B Top Ten. When Paul adapted Charlie Parker’s tune ‘Now’s the Time’, then put it over a danceable 12-bar shuffle and added his own honking sax lines, the result was sensational. It got a lot of ‘crossover’ radio airplay, and was later covered by Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Chubby Checker and a host of others over the years. Pauls band was on the bill at Alan Freed’s ‘Moondog Coronation Ball’ in Cleveland in 1952, perhaps the world’s first ever ‘Rock’n’Roll Concert’, and as the opening act they were the only ones who got to play before Fire Marshalls closed it down!
The original version of ‘The Hucklebuck’;
Paul 'Hucklebuck' Williams Discography
‘The Hucklebuck’ is available as an MP3, but not on any CD, so this one has 23 of Paul’s other music as he took his spectacular sax into the Rock’n’Roll years.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL YEARS
The Hucklebuckers continued to play for fifteen years, but Paul didn’t make any more chart singles of his own after the early 50s. However his bold, swinging tenor sax was heard on a lot of Atlantic records: as part of the Atlantic house-band he contributed to countless R&B hits. In the early 60s, Paul worked as musical director for Lloyd Price
and James Brown, fitting in an occasional gig at the The Apollo alongside his session work. He retired from performing in 1964 to open a successful booking agency, and passed away in New York in 2002.