Back to Feb 2015 Show

Henry "Rubberlegs" Williams

While I wish I would have learned about Rubberlegs Williams while I was
still doing my QMH radio shows, so I could have included him in one
of my Blues shows....I can make up a little for that now by presenting
this information on him so he can be found in a queer setting.

The CD below is likely the best place to find his music in one source.
It also gives a good biography and doesn't shy away from him being
widely known as openly gay. His Wiki Bio is another one.

If you google search him you will no doubt find a number of references
to the fact that it was on his Savoy recording session in 1945 that
we can hear the first performances on record of jazz great Miles Davis,
on "That's the Stuff You Gotta Watch, " "Pointless Mama Blues,"
"Deep Sea Blues" and "Bring It On Home." All four can be heard
at this YouTube link.

I actually think "Blues Shouter" is not quite right for Rubberlegs,
as blues & jazz singer is more correct

and also, I've seen some google sources say he was a female
impersonator in Bobby Grant's Revue, and others say he was
employed there as a dancer...I think the latter is the case

Hear Charlie Parker tell the anecdote of the doped coffee (48 sec)

Dizzy Gillespie and Rubberlegs Williams, horsing around...1954

The dazzling dancing of Rubberlegs is famously seen in
this short 1932 film, "Smash Your Baggage"

More Music...all as featured vocalist
(all recordings are 1945/1946)

Oscar Pettiford & His Orchestra, January 1945
Manor 1002 - Worried Life Blues
Empty Bed Blues, Part 1 & Part 2

Clyde Hart's All Stars, with Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie, March/Apr 1945
Continental 6013 - That's the Blues
Continental 6013   - What's the Matter Now
Continental 6020 - I Want Every Bit of It
Continental 6020 - 4-F Blues or alt take GI Blues
Continental 6060 - Ooh! Ooh! My! My! Oh! Oh! with DG (not on CD)
Continental 6060 - Dream of You (not on CD)
(note, the two above may not be Williams on vocals)
Continental 6005 - Seventh Avenue (not on CD, at 30:12 mark)

Rubberlegs Williams with Herbie Field's Orchestra, with Miles Davis, April 1945
Savoy 564 - That's the Stuff You Gotta Watch
Savoy 564 - Pointless Mama Blues
Savoy 5516 - Deep Sea Blues
Savoy 5516 - Bring It On Home

MORE, all not on the CD

Rubberlegs Williams Band, June 1946,
Haven 1000 - Did You Ever Sit Thinking
Haven 1000 - 7th & T Streets, Washington DC
released as above, but aka
Signature/Haven - Going Back to Washington
Haven 1001 - Susie Bee Blues
Haven 1001 - I Ain't Gonna Marry Blues


Possible early recordings
Lovie Austin & Her Serenaders, with "Henry Williams" vocals, August 1926
Chicago Mess Around
Merry Makers Twine

Very Early, but This Article backs up the theory


While Williams was known to be in Bobby Grant's
Revue, impossible to know if it was in it in 1930

Performing with Gladys Bentley

Note "The Sepia Clara Bow," female impersonator
and Jackie Mabley, later known as Moms

Notice female impersonators on the bill:
Sepia Mae West, Sepia Gloria Swanson, Sepia Clara Bow

Billy Banks was also a gay blues singer

Below, excerpts from the Bessie Smith bio, detailing that Williams
was asked to sing "My Buddy" at her funeral, held on Oct 4 1937

Below, French jazz reissue LP, year not given, but likely material from 1944

Recordings Images
what I could find

Above and below, a researcher has contacted me and reported that on these
two sides vocals were credited to Williams in error, and were instead sung
Trummy Young

If you have other 78 rpm disc images not seen here, please send them to me