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Andre Williams

 

Andre 'Mr. Rhythm' Williams

Andre Williams was born in Alabama in 1936 and became interested in music at an early age when he began singing in Cobbs Baptist Church choir in Chicago. He moved to Detroit, and in the early 50's he formed The Five Dollars who also were known as the Don Juans when they backed him up on recordings like "Going Down to Tijuana", "You Know I Can't Refuse", "It's All Over, and others. Many of these can be heard on the album "Jail Bait".

The members of the Five Dollars/Don Juans include: Eddie Hurt, tenor, Lonnie Heard, second tenor, James Drayton, baritone, and Charles Evans, bass.  The name The Don Juans was actually chosen by Devora Brown who thought it a good idea to have a name that would relate to the style and charisma that Andre evoked.

Andre took on the nickname "Mr. Rhythm", a name descriptive of his vocal bravado that ranges from a gritty morality play like "Jail Bait" (complete with mock sirens by the Charlie Morris Orchestra) to a beat ballad as in Lloyd Price's "Just Because". "Down To Tijuana" was a popular concert number that featured Andre leaping from the balcony to the stage followed by the Don Juans. His ability to translate a song into a complete performance captivated his audience, and as was usually the case, his reputation proceeded him.


The mesmerizing effect of "Down To Tijuana" shifts from the mambo tempo to a see saw rhythm in the down-down-down chorus. Those who have never seen Andre and The Don Juans perform can listen to "Down To Tijuana" and let your imagination run wild. "I Wanna Know Why" is hard blues that begins with a rather complacent piano and saxophone that later builds to a climax with Andre begging to know the answer to the all too familiar question.
Andre, with Gino Purifoy harmonizing, and having a penchant for novelty R & B, begins side 2 with the culinary "Greasy Chicken", a follow up to "Bacon Fat", featuring "Mr. Rhythm" and Gino with tongue in cheek as they say, "Greasy Chicken" in three dialects.

And never was the style of Andre Williams so steeped in the blues tradition as in "A Little Lovin ' ". It packs a powerful guitar introduction by Bob "Chico" Edwards who contributed so much to the recordings of the Diablos. Anyone who doubts Edward's virtuosity should listen to "The Wind". "Is It True?" is almost vaudvellian in its unabashed exuberance. Never is the intensity of Andre's singing ever diminished. This intensity and dramatic versatility can be heard in the sentimental, "My Last Dance With You" featuring him with the Don Juans. The Don Juans arc back again in "I'm Movin' On" which is not to be confused with the Hank Snow song of the same name. And thus, with "Movin On" and "It's All Over", enhanced with the smooth harmonies of The Don Juans, Mr. Rhythm continues to assert himself as he jumps and bumps and grinds his way through the last two songs on the Album.

The noted rhythm and blues historian, Susan Winson said: "He spoke to his audience long before the disco generation learned to rap. " Andre's special language has never gone out of style. With the help of Fortune Records he will always be around. This innovative blues master is at his best in this album, ready to let you know why he's known as. .."Mr. Rhythm"!  (James Austin)