Joe Williams was the last great big-band singer, a smooth baritone who graced the rejuvenated Count Basie Orchestra during the 1950s and captivated audiences well into the '90s. Born in Georgia, he moved to Chicago with his grandmother at the age of three. Reunited with his mother, she taught him to play the piano and took him to the symphony. Though tuberculosis slowed him down as a teenager, Williams began performing at social events and formed his own gospel vocal quartet, the Jubilee Boys. By the end of the '30s he had made the transition to the Chicago club scene, and appeared with orchestras led by Jimmie Noone and Les Hite during the late '30s. He sang with Coleman Hawkins and Lionel Hampton during the early '40s, and toured with Andy Kirk & His Clouds of Joy during the mid-'40s (making his first recording with that band).
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