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Singing the Blues with Earl ‘Guitar’ Williams

I would like to share a story with you an incredible cigar box guitar player I found in an online newspaper today.
 His tone and sound is amazing!


 
 
Video by Max Shores
Guitar made by Johnny Lowebow
 
 
Story written by Susan Mann Pell City Library St. Clair News-Aegis
                                   
Blues lovers and music aficionados are in for a treat at the Pell City Library on Wednesday, Feb 18 at noon. Blues musician Earl “Guitar” Williams is headed this way, and he’s toting his guitar. Not just any guitar, mind you. While the instrument originated as a King Edward cigar box, it has graduated to bigger and better things. In Williams’ hands, it might as well be a Martin or Alvarez. Don’t be surprised if he brings along his harmonica and his electric guitar, too.
You might find yourself humming and singing along as this fun-loving musician works the crowd with his special magic, and a passion for music that began at the tender age of 7 years ol Williams’ is a story of a young man with a dream and great determination. Spurred by the love of music and the desire to play the guitar, a boy from Bessemer overcame incredible odds to follow his dream. He loved music and often listened to and admired the songs by Roy Rogers, Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley. He was especially fascinated by the guitar accompaniment and began to ask his parents to purchase one for him. He was one of nine children, and though they recognized his interest, his parents simply could not afford to buy him one. However, this dream was not easily deterred.
When Williams discovered that Bo Didley had made his own guitar from a cigar box, he fashioned one for himself as well with a King Edward cigar box, a broomstick and a little fishing cord. It was the beginning of his musical career, and the rest, as they say, is history.
                                                                                                                                                                             At the age of 9, Williams befriended Raleigh and Joe Redmond. These brothers owned an acoustic guitar, and as they gathered on the Redmond’s back porch to practice various songs, the noise began to sound like “real music.” Meanwhile, just two blocks away, near the home of Henry Gipson, another plan was taking place. Mr. Gip” recognized a need in the community, and began to clear land near his home for the children of the community to play baseball. As children gathered to play ball, Williams found his interest diverted instead to the guitars on “Mr. Gip’s” porch and the men that often played there. He found himself returning again and again to watch seasoned guitarists such as Louis Franklin, Willie “Dude” Franklin, Little Bro Franklin, and Mr. Gip himself. He longed to play acquire their skill. Fortunately, neighbors “Bunkie Boy” and Eugene Patton, both proficient guitarists, allowed Williams to shadow them, and took the time to teach him their techniques.
Williams also frequented a local pawn shop where other players, who noted Williams’s interest and taught him to tune the guitar and make chords. Eventually, by the age of 12, Williams landed his first job as a shoeshine boy in the rear of a barber shop, earning 20 cents per customer. From his meager earnings he purchased his first authentic guitar. By the age of 13 he had his first gig with a band called The Corruptors, playing the blues and the sounds of Motown. They performed for and were well received by adult audiences, though they were too young to go out into the audience during break.
Williams continued play with various bands, even into adulthood, balancing work at U.S. Steel with performance opportunities locally and across the United States. He eventually took a leave of absence from U.S. Steel to work for a time with musicians in Dallas, playing with the band Justice of the Peace. Later, returning to U.S. Steel in Birmingham, he began playing with legendary jazz great, Cleve Eaton in the Garden of Eden Band. During this time, he developed an interest in the harmonica as well, and under Eaton’s tutelage learned the theory of blues, and a better understanding of blues harmonica. He began to add the harmonica to his music, strengthening his sound, and notoriety. He also began to write music, sounding out his troubles.
 When laid off from U.S. Steel in the mid-1980s, music became William’s survival as his traveled with circuit blues legend Benny Latimore, playing in the KALU band. He also became Latimore’s personal hair stylist when, by chance, his talents became evident. Once back in Birmingham, Williams decided to seek further training in hair styling and enrolled in the School of Cosmetology. After graduation, he decided to quit touring, and to open his own hair studio, Intensive Care Beauty Salon in Bessemer.
Now, more than 23 years later, he continues to run his salon, but he still plays with Benny Latimore, and other artists when they are in the area, and he often returns to Mr. Gip’s Juke Joint where he started his musical journey.