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Sterling Williams

From Soul Express 1/1996


Walter Sterling Williams was born in Bryan, Texas, in '44. "You know, I'm Williams. M.L. Williams and Rev. Allen Williams, Sr. - they're deceased now - were my brothers. They did gospel recordings way back in the 30's. M.L. had a big church in Bryan, Texas, where I'm from, and Allen had a church in San Angelo, Texas. So basically that's my roots. But I'm just a blues man."
Now Sterling is living permanently in California. He names The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Highway QC's, Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, Otis Redding, B.B.King, Elmore James and Jimmy Reed his early influences, whereas nowadays he thinks highly of Bobby Bland, Tyrone Davis, Johnnie Taylor, Clarence Carter and Bobby Womack.
"A young man by the name of Lionel Davis took me by the hand and started roaming me. I was afraid. He tricked me on the stage. He gave me an introduction to this music thing, to singing. He introduced me to Joe Tex. I met through Lionel Davis Gene "Bowlegs" Miller and O.V. Wright. This was in the sixties, '68-'69.
Before that I was just doing something in the church and running around in the chitlin' circuit, getting a gig here and there, in Chicago, in the Illinois area, in Detroit, Tennessee, Mid-West. I'm a baker by trade, so I was in and out of the bakery working, just to survive. In music I always thought I was good, but no-one ever helped me. Mr. Bowlegs Miller, he tried to help me. Paul Richmond and John Richbourg tried to help me by giving me that inspiration, but I never had anyone to kinda steer me into that direction."
Sterling already named Messr. Richmond and Richbourg, who were involved in Sterling's one and only recording in the late 60's before the current CD.
"My first single that I recorded was written by Paul Richmond, and the titles were `Look What Love Can Do' & `You're Too Busy Talking'. It was produced by John Richbourg of WLAC, a radio station in Nashville, Tennessee. I don't even remember the label they had it on. They were trying to get it with some universal label out here. I don't know how it dumped out. I sang it under the name of Frankie Jenson."
Sterling has never done any background work for anybody, but he's gathered some team-working experience. "I formed a group in Chicago, Universal Language Band, with the piano player named Alberto Gianquinto. He used to play with Santana. We were doing really well. We're talking about '77, '78. We didn't do any recordings. We were just in the local chitlin' circuit.
In the 80's I was out in California just doing local stuff, local blues spots. I worked with Mary Love, Sonny Green and over in Chicago with Johnny Dollar."
And that brings us up to these days and to Sterling's first CD, One Day At A Time, and it also happens to be the first CD on Everready Records.
"The executive producer and one of the owners of Everready Records is Doris Downs. We're pretty close. We started putting down some tracks, and we just came up with getting our own record label, because I don't believe nobody's gonna pick me up. So I just tried to put it out there myself, and thank God, this is what I came with.
At this time I'm the only artist. We got two more artists in the studio. I'm writing for them, and they'll be coming out sometime in spring, I think, a single anyway."
Sterling wrote all the ten tracks on his CD with music ranging from straight blues (Giving Me The Blues, One Day At A Time, Testify), swaying r&b mid-bouncers or easy dancers (Grade A Qualify, a Tyrone-like lilter I'll Do Right For Your Love, One On One, Somethings Happening, I Don't Wanna Lose You) to a pleading, soulful ballad (Learning To Live My Life Without You). The final track is a 56-second-long Thank You - Gospel. "That's just the taste of the single that's coming up. We want to release it sometime this spring."
The mixer on the CD, by the way, is Leon Haywood, and Sterling's Southern, experienced baritone is backed by Regina Bell and Eliza, Keith and Reggie Williams. Not THAT Regina? "Everybody asks me this. No, it's not the same person. The Williamses are a father and two sons, but they're not related to me."
With the CD offering a variety of music, what, then, is closest to Sterling's heart? "The blues, that's where I came from, I'm a Texas boy, blues and gospel."

-Heikki Suosalo

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