b. William Paden Hensley, 24 July 1909, Phoenix City, Alabama, USA. Raised in Georgia, where he began drumming at the age of six, Washboard Willie moved to Detroit in 1945, and soon became a fixture on the city’s blues scene, playing the bars with his Super Suds Of Rhythm, and making occasional records for independent record producer Joe Von Battle. These are of limited interest, as Von Battle could only fund minimal accompaniment (guitar, piano and bass guitar), rather than the horn section that Willie’s jump-blues needed. His back-up work on ‘Brother Will’ Hairston’s ‘Alabama Bus’, about the Montgomery bus boycott in the Civil Rights movement of the early 60s, is a demonstration of what the washboard and its associated kitchen implements can achieve. In 1973 he appeared in Europe, confirming in person that he was a lively and extrovert entertainer.
Share this page