Wearing a white suit and a super-fine hat, the much loved and highly under-rated Swamp Dogg has the glamorous image and rich-toned voice of a Soul/Blues Superstar, but his talent for hilarious and cynical lyrics also mark him out as a masterful songwriter. Swamp Dogg is a cult hero to many, but the character is, in fact, the creation of a shrewd, witty industry insider.
Jerry Williams Jr. was born in Portsmouth VA in 1942, and got onto record as a 12-year-old with his song ‘HTD Blues’, billed as Little Jerry. Over the next 10 years, Little Jerry Williams put out a long string of up-tempo R&B records, some of which were later to become ‘Northern Soul’ classics in the UK. His friendship with Jerry Wexler
saw him working for Atlantic in the 60s as an A&R man, producer and songwriter, and his songs were covered by all kinds of singers, including a big country hit for Johnny Paycheck, ‘She’s All I Got’, which Jerry co-wrote with Gary US Bonds
. Jerry had Still hankering after a career as a recording artist, Jerry invented his alter-ego
Swamp Dogg as a vehicle for his unique brand of Soul/Blues. Jerry had been a fan of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland
as a kid, and his strong tenor voice and passionate delivery owed something to his hero. His debut album, ‘Total Destruction of Your Mind’ lives up to its title as Dogg let rip with his songs of social commentary like ‘Synthetic World’ about rampant consumerism and ‘Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe’, on Dogg’s favourite subject of infidelity. While Frank Zappa was using symphonic Jazz-Rock behind his similarly controversial lyrics, Dogg’s approach was more about heavy Soul and R&B.
Swamp Dogg performs his own fantastically moving song, ‘Sam Stone’ in 2010.
Often cited as the worst album cover ever, Dogg’s next album saw him pictured riding on the back of a giant white rat on ‘Rat On!’ (“Right On!” was the current affirmative phrase). Further albums pursuing Dogg’s concerns of social injustice, vacuous culture and promiscuity, like ‘Cuffed, Collared and Tagged’, ‘Gag a Maggot’ and several more, were issued in the next few years. None of this work made the charts, much less mainstream TV and radio, but Dogg established a loyal cult following for his gigs and occasional recordings. In 1981, Dogg attempted a re-launch into the mainstream with a more Rock’n’Roll album, ‘I’m Not Selling Out, I’m Buying In’, and also a country album which remained un-issued until recently. As Jerry Williams, he continued to do well as a producer and songsmith, but at the turn of the Century, when Kid Rock sampled some of Dogg’s work, the wayward genius was moved to make an intermittent revival.
With many of the songs that made Dogg a cult hero, this compilation gives an overview of his most inventive years. Soul and funk from a bygone day, given that unique twist by a masterful songwriter.
It’s All Good: A Singles Collection 1963-1989
Taking time out from his other interests, Dogg began to do some gigs and make occasional records. This culminated in his releasing two albums in 2009, and most of his back catalogue has now been digitally re-mastered for the delight of the uninitiated. The old Dogg continues to sniff around, and released an album in 2014 called ‘The White Man Made Me Do It’.