Willie King an Alabama blues singer and guitarist whose career took him from backwoods juke joints to the largest blues festivals in North America and Europe.
King appeared in the 2003 Martin Scorsese film Feel Like Going Home and was named Blues Artist of the Year by Living Blues magazine in 2004. In 1997 he founded the Freedom Creek blues festival. He began recording in 1999 when he made Freedom Creek, the first of his acclaimed albums.
King was one of those old-school juke joint players, but his music also reflected his lifelong role as a social activist. He called them 'struggling blues,'
Brett Bonner Magazine editor
King often visited schools, telling his life story and teaching children about the blues music that he loved.
King was born in Prairie Point, Miss., but when he was 6 years old he moved to west Alabama with his sharecropping grandparents. At age 9, he started playing guitar -- a fascination that took him to Southern juke joints for years before he gained international recognition late in his career.
An award-nominated record of Willie's life has been published.
Dutch film-makers Saskia Rietmeijer and Bart Drolenga (Visible World Films) wanted to produce a documentary about African American arts and culture in the Deep South. But they met Willie King and instead decided to devote their efforts to creating a DVD about Willie's life and times.
Willie King's debut album Freedom Creek on Rooster Blues Records, was King's powerful introduction into the wider music and blues world. Not only was the album acclaimed by critics worldwide, it also received awards from Living Blues Magazine for Best Male Blues Artist (2001), Best Blues Album (2000) and Best Contemporary Blues Album (2000).
In 1967, Willie King moved to Chicago in an attempt to make more money than he could down South. After a year spent on the West and South Sides, he returned to Old Memphis, Alabama, just across the border from the Mississippi Prairie. A salesman - of shoes, cologne, and other frivolities - Willie traveled the rural roads hawking goods and talking politics. Choosing not to work under the "old system" of unequal treatment, King joined the civil rights movement near the end of the decade.
In 1987, a chance meeting at a festival in Eutaw, Alabama, blew Rooster Blues founder Jim O'Neal away: According to O'Neal, King's "juke-joint musical style and political lyrics knocked me down." The two kept in touch for the next 13 years, during which O'Neal relocated his label, and King concentrated on his own community, forging relationships with local youth through a blues education program, through his organization The Rural Members Association.