I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this very rare Parlophone release by Little Willie John the other day so I thought I would select Willie as the second subject of my series on Soul Pioneers. Willie was a star of R and B in the late fifties and early sixties, but there's no doubting that he had an incredibly soulful voice and can rightly be considered one of the true pioneers of the genre.His first releases, Titus Turner's All Around the World and his original Need Your Love So Bad, both of them R and B classics, were not given a general release in the UK at the time, and in fact only a handful of Willie's singles were issued over the following few years. Fever, released in 1956, became much better known when Peggy Lee recorded it a couple of years later, but this first Parlophone 45 must have had a very small circulation. It's certainly hard to find, hence its mint value of £300. Later records such as Leave My Kitten Alone, Talk To Me, Talk To Me and Sleep enjoyed success in the US but went virtually unnoticed in the UK.
The older brother of Mable John, Willie's recording career came to a dramatic end when he was dropped by his record company, King, after suffering alcohol problems, and then, in 1966, convicted for manslaughter following a knifing incident in Seattle. Despite appealing the verdict and being released for long enough to record a comeback album (not released until 2008), Willie was sent back to prison and died, allegedly of a heart attack, in 1968.
Pictured are a couple more Parlophone releases in my collection and some of Willie's original King 45s, with Youtube links. First, here's a Youtube link to Fever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i93-hlwULUk
Let's Rock While The Rockin's Good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPF5BqcNjwo
Leave My Kitten Alone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1y_FKlwdjk
(I've Got) Spring Fever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo9rYgquh40
Take My Love (I Want To Give It All To You). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3rXSKm3VYM
Doll Face. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNRP14mASkE
Selection of Little Willie John LPs.