Thursday, July 2, 2009

Robert Pete Williams

Robert Pete Williams (March 14, 1914 – December 31, 1980) was an American Louisiana blues musician, based in Louisiana. His music characteristically employs unconventional blues tunings and structures, and his songs are often about the time he served in prison. His song "I've Grown So Ugly" has been covered by Captain Beefheart, on his album Safe as Milk (1967), and by The Black Keys, on Rubber Factory (2004).

Williams was born in Zachary, Louisiana to sharecropping parents, and lived around the Baton Rouge area throughout his life.[1] He was discovered in Angola prison, by ethnomusicologists Dr Harry Oster and Richard Allen, where he was serving a life sentence for shooting a man dead in a local club in 1956, an act which he claimed was in self-defense.“...the most avant-garde blues performer ever recorded. No punk rock band has ever matched the jagged, acerbic fury of the riffs Williams played 35 years ago. No rapper has approached his ability to evoke the torment of life in prison or bend language to cast an eerie spell over a chance encounter with a seductive woman.... He had never been recorded when he was discovered in Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana, convicted of murder. Oster and Allen recorded Williams performing several of his songs about life in prison and pleaded for him to be pardoned. The pardon was partially granted in 1959, when Williams was released, although he could not leave Louisiana until he received a full pardon in 1964. By this time, Williams' music had achieved some favorable word-of-mouth reviews, and he played his first concert outside Louisiana at that year's Newport Folk Festival.
Williams went on to tour the United States, and played a number of concerts with Mississippi Fred McDowell. He continued to play concerts and festivals into the late 1970s when his health began to decline.
His most popular recordings included "Prisoner's Talking Blues" and "Pardon Denied Again".Williams has been inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame.
Williams died in Rosedale, Louisiana on 31 December 1980, at the age of 66.