ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 3, 2001
On the cover of his latest CD, Get Wild!, blues-rocker Lil’ Ed Williams is pictured atop his rhythm guitarist’s shoulders, lookin’ sharp in a black-and-gold fez, sporting a huge grin and a red Washburn guitar with the name Pamela in block letters on the front. That’s for his wife, whom he dedicated Get Wild! to. She bought him the guitar, but more importantly, she helped him overcome a life-threatening struggle with drug addiction a few years ago. “When you first get out there amongst the people,” says Williams from his home in the Chicago suburb of Mount Prospect, “you start drinking, and drinkin’ leads to ’ludes and other things.
“And then you kind of sample things,” he adds with a laugh, “and you sample a little bit too much. It took its toll, and brung me down a little tad, but you know, I got my mind together and come on back.”
Williams is definitely back on track, having re-signed with top blues label Alligator Records. He’s got a new album in the works, and he’s also about to embark on a North American tour that kicks off at the Yale next Thursday (May 10). Fans of scorching slide guitar should be there, as should those who like a little performance thrown in with their house-rockin’ blues. For a small guy—five foot three in his stocking feet—Williams has a lot of energy, as evidenced by his typical on-stage antics.
“I walk on my toes,” explains the 46-year-old showman, “crawl on my knees, you know, and walk the bar sometime. I’ll get on my rhythm man’s shoulders. We all act the fool.”
A torchbearer for the south-side Chicago slide-guitar boogie, Williams says that he learned almost everything he knows from his uncle, the legendary J.B. Hutto, whom he studied with as a teen. But Hutto taught him more than just how to use a bottleneck to get folks on their feet.
“The most important thing that he taught me was be nice,” notes Williams, “and have a good time with my music. He did mention to me that I was gonna have music critics, that people were gonna say things that I didn’t like to hear, and he felt that that was the best thing for me to know about in this life. Keep a smile, always be happy, and always be nice. Yeah.”