Here is a singer/songwriter from Art Rupe’s Specialty Records stable that had loads of talent. He also had some personal problems and lack of discipline in his life, but still he wrote some great songs and I remember at dances in 1957 everyone new the words to Short Fat Fannie.
Larry Williams was an R&B and rock-and-roll singer who also wrote songs and played piano. His career might have had more impact had he not allegedly become seriously involved with the drug scene.
Larry was born in New Orleans in 1935. As a child in New Orleans, he wanted to be in the music business and learned how to play piano.
When he was a teenager, he and his family moved to Oakland, CA, where he joined a local R&B group called the Lemon Drops.
In 1954, when he was 19 years old, Williams went back to New Orleans for a visit. During his trip, he met Lloyd Price, who was recording for Specialty Records. Price hired the teenager as his valet and introduced him to Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, Specialty’s house producer.
Larry played piano in Lloyd Price’s band in the early 50’s. He also worked in bands that were headed by Roy Brown and Percy Mayfield.
Soon, the label’s owner, Art Rupe, signed Williams to a solo recording contract and he moved back to the West Coast.
Just after Specialty signed Larry Williams, they lost Little Richard, who had been their biggest star and guaranteed hitmaker. Little Richard decided to abandon rock & roll for the ministry.
Williams cut his first single, a cover of Lloyd Price’s “Just Because,” with Richard’s backing band. “Just Because” peaked at number 11 on the R&B charts in the spring of 1957.
After Richard left the label, the label put all of its energy into making Williams a star, giving him an image makeover and a set of material — ranging from hard R&B and rock & roll to ballads — that was quite similar to Richard’s hits.
His first really big hit for Specialty was Short Fat Fannie. It was a wild party song somewhat similar to the songs that Little Richard was doing at that time.
Short Fat Fannie reached #5 and established Larry Williams as a serious rock-and-roll performer in 1957. He followed it up with Bony Moronie later that year, backed with You Bug Me, Baby.
He also had a lesser hit with Dizzy Miss Lizzie, a song that would later be covered by the Beatles.
After that Larry didn’t have much success selling records. He recorded a number of songs in 1958 and 1959, including Heeby Jeebies, with band members such as Plas Johnson on tenor sax and Alvin “Red” Tyler on baritone, Barney Kessel on guitar, Gerald Wilson on trumpet, Ernie Freeman or Larry himself on piano, and Earl Palmer on drums.
In 1960 everything changed for Williams. He was convicted of dealing narcotics and this was a big set back to his career.
He came back in 1962 with a band that included Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and toured the United Kingdom. His shows were taped and resulted in the album The Larry Williams Show.
In the late 60’s Larry had some minor hits on the Okeh label with Johnny Watson, one of which was Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. He attempted a comeback as a disco singer in the late 70’s, but met with little success.
On January 7, 1980, Larry Williams died from a gunshot wound.