Jay Mayo Williams was one of the very few African American recording company executives prior to World War II and was working for several labels, among them Paramount, Vocalion, and Brunswick. Williams attended Brown University, where he was a track star and All-American football player. During the '20s, he played professional football with the Hammond (Ind.) Pros, becoming one of three black athletes (with Paul Robeson and Fritz Pollard) to play in the fledgling National Football League during its first year of operation. He entered the music business around 1924 as a talent scout and producer for Paramount's "race" series; he also ran the label's associated publishing arm. He left Paramount in 1927 to start the short-lived Chicago Record Company; after the failure of the firm's label, Black Patti, Williams moved on to Vocalion and Brunswick. He left the business for a time in the mid-'30s and coached football at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was hired as head of the race department at Decca in the mid-'30s. While at Decca, he recorded such musicians as Alberta Hunter, Norfolk Jubilee Quartet, Monette Moore, Grant and Wilson, Trixie Smith, Tiny Parham, and Blind Joe Taggart. Williams worked freelance and ran a series of small, independent labels in the '40s, among them Harlem Records in New York. He founded Ebony Records in the late '40s (a young Muddy Waters recorded for the label) and ran the company until ill-health forced his retirement in the early '70s. Williams was a member of the National Football Hall of Fame Association.
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