Weepin' Willie

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Known as "Boston's Elder Statesman of the Blues," vocalist Weepin' Willie decided on a music career after getting hooked on the polished, urban blues style pioneered by the likes of B.B. King, Bobby Bland,…
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Known as "Boston's Elder Statesman of the Blues," vocalist Weepin' Willie decided on a music career after getting hooked on the polished, urban blues style pioneered by the likes of B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and Joe Williams. Remarkably, it took Willie 50 years of working the clubs as an MC and singer before he got his first record deal (with APO) in 1998. The resulting album, At Last, on Time, was co-produced by Mighty Sam McClain and its release garnered Willie some belated recognition for his hard-earned life as a bluesman.

Born William Lorenzo Robinson in Atlanta, GA, in 1926, Willie grew up as a field worker drifting from farm to farm along the East Coast. After finishing a three-year stint in the army in 1948, Willie moved to Trenton, NJ, where he began MCing jazz and R&B gigs under the name Willie the Weeper. Over the next decade he warmed up the stage for a long line of entertainers passing through Trenton, including B.B. King, Lloyd Price, Titus Turner, and Bill Doggett. At the same time, Willie also discovered his own talent as a singer and he began fronting a blues combo led by saxophonist Jimmy Taylor.

In 1959, Willie moved to Boston and changed his stage name to Weepin' Willie. Through the '60s he found steady work as an MC, including a regular gig opening for R&B singer Tommy Hunt. When Hunt decided to move to England, Willie stayed behind and joined forces with bassist Buddy Johnson to form the Buddy Johnson/Weepin' Willie All-Star Band, which lasted until Johnson's death in 1998. Willie subsequently took over the band, which then became known as Weepin' Willie and the All-Star Blues Band. Notable All-Star alumni include sax players Gordon "Sax" Beadle (of the Duke Robillard Band), Lynwood Cooke (of Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson's Magic Rockers, and Emmett Simmons (a former James Brown sideman who has performed with Willie on and off since 1964).

Prior to 1999's At Last, on Time, Willie had only recorded once, cutting "Can't Go Wrong Woman" for the 1991 Tone-Cool compilation Boston Blues Blast, Vol. 1.