In this segment from a 1981 Duke Ellington tribute at Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Billy Taylor leads an all star orchestra to accompany singer Joe Williams.
Born on a small farming community in Georgia, Joe Williams moved to Chicago with his family when he was only four.
As an adolescent he formed his own gospel quartet "The Jubilee Boys" and performed at church functions.
Williams dropped out of high school to peruse his singing career earning generous tips as a vocalist with local bands.
In 1943 he was hired by Lionel Hampton with whom he toured throughout the '40s.
Joe Williams' big break came in 1954 when he was hired by Count Basie to replace his long-time vocalist, Jimmy Rushing. From that point his career really took off, he toured extensively continuing to perform until his death in 1999.
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