1957 Larry Williams – Bony Moronie
Larry Williams was born in 1935 in New Orleans. He spent time in Oakland and Chicago before he moved back to New Orleans. His cousin was Lloyd Price, and Larry got work with Lloyd’s band as a valet and later as a musician. Larry became good friends with a young Little Richard in 1955, and the two were each signed to Specialty Records.
Little Richard became a huge act, and when he abandoned rock-and-roll to enter the ministry, Specialty Records sought to turn Larry into a similar success.
Larry finally began hitting the charts in 1957. Lloyd Price wrote Just Because and released the single twice, first in 1956 and later in early 1957. The single stalled at #29 on the Hot 100 the second time. Larry covered the song, and his version reached #11 on the R&B chart but failed to reach the Hot 100 despite all the airplay it got in the New York City area. The two versions were nearly indistinguishable aside from some slight differences on the introductory piano parts, and perhaps that kept Larry’s version off of most top forty stations.
Larry wrote his next single himself, and it was the biggest hit of his career. Short Fat Fanny reached the top of the R&B chart and peaked at number five on the Hot 100. The song might well qualify as a novelty record, given all the titles of other recent hit records that he mentioned in the lyrics: Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, Heartbreak Hotel, Fever, Tutti Frutti, Blue Suede Shoes, Jim Dandy, and Blueberry Hill.
His next single, Dizzy, Miss Lizzy, only reached #69 on the Hot 100, and might well have been forgotten if not for the cover versions by British Invasion groups like the Beatles. The Beatles also covered other songs by Larry, including Slow Down and Bad Boy.
Larry was arrested for possession of drugs and guns in 1959, and as a result, his record company dropped him.
He produced two albums for Little Richard beginning in 1966 that helped Little Richard return to the charts, but it was 1967 before Larry reached the charts again with his own record. Cannonball Adderley had a number eleven hit with the original instrumental single of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy in 1966. Larry and guitar player Johnny Watson released a version that peaked at #23 on the R&B chart and a sad #96 on the Hot 100 the next year, while the Buckinghams covered the song and bounced into the top five on the Hot 100.
Larry recorded an album with Johnny that generated one of the most sought-after Northern Song singles in England, Two For The Price Of One.
In the late sixties and early seventies, Larry began acting and even appeared in a few films.
In 1980, Larry was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head. It was ruled a suicide, although they uncovered some evidence that implied drug dealers may have been involved in the death. Larry was only 44 years old.
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