In the early 50s, Willie Mabon was at the forefront of the Chicago blues scene, with massive hit records on the Chess label. After a quiet spell, his career was revitalised in the 70s, when he discovered a new audience across the pond. Although he is not well remembered today, there was a time when Willie Mabon was a big star.
With the Chess house band behind him, Willie had Number 1 hits with ‘I Don’t Know’ and ‘I’m Mad’, and ‘Poison Ivy’ went to Number 7. However, his original version of Willie Dixon‘s ‘Seventh Son’ did not sell well and he left Chess without having another hit. Willie joined Federal Records in 1957, and then on to smaller labels like Mad, Formal, USA and Sue in the 60s, again without cracking the charts. This didn’t affect Willie’s popularity in the Chicago clubs and bars, and when the American Blues Legends invited him to tour Europe, Willie discovered a new audience. With his chunky, improvising piano style, Willie proved very popular, especially in France, and like Memphis Slim he bought a house in Paris in 1972. Living and recording on both sides of the Atlantic for the rest of his career, Willie was a popular act in Europe, playing the Montreux Festival and touring widely until his untimely death in Paris in 1985.