Diminutive in size but gigantic in stature, Little Willie John was a genuine architect of soul. Along with Clyde McPhatter, Ray Charles, and Sam Cooke, the visionary singer stood at the forefront of fusing gospel intensity to rhythm and blues tradition. And had he not died inside a Walla Walla prison at the age of 30, his name would likely be etched in the same soul Pantheon as his peers.
Despite his abbreviated career, Willie cut a string of seminal sides for Cincinnati-based King Records from 1955 to 1961 that rank among the finest R&B waxed by any singer for any label of the period. It didn't matter whether the song was an after-hours blues ballad or an uptempo footstomper: Willie's agile, melismatic voice made the number soar. As Motown legend Lamont Dozier says in Bill Dahl's notes to this collection, "Willie John was just an extraordinary talent. He knew how to touch you with a song, and he knew how to raise the hairs on the back of your neck."
Now, from Real Gone Music comes the most comprehensive collection of this overlooked soul superstar ever assembled: two CDs, 32 tracks that include every chart hit plus its accompanying, seldom-compiled B-side. And the B-sides are where some of the real fun is, for Willie saved some of his most rockin recordings for the flip; joining such landmark R&B recordings as "Fever," "All Around the World," "Need Your Love So Bad" and "Home at Last" on this collection are such crackling tunes as "Spasms," "Let's Rock While the Rockin's Good" and "Do You Love Me" (recorded with Little Richard's Band The Upsetters).
With notes by R&B expert Bill Dahl and photos from the King label archive, Little Willie John: Complete Hit Singles A s & B s offers the casual listener all the hits and the collector the requisite rarities. It s an essential addition to any soul library.