If there's one thing Li’l Ed Williams has done throughout his 25-year career, it has been to prove how lively and how much fun the blues can be.
Li’l Ed wants to make sure everyone knows the blues are not about being sad or depressed, and he's a living example of how to chase those feelings away with music.
And if there's one thing Li’l Ed Williams has done throughout his 25-year career, it has been to prove how lively and how much fun the blues can be. His ebullience and uninhibited charm led to one of his most famous gigs, back in 2006, when he appeared on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien" to give the gangly host a lesson in playing blues on slide guitar.
“I've always seemed to have a talent for showing people who don’t realize that the blues is fun,” Li'l Ed said.
“I remember telling my buddies I was going out to play some blues, and they'd be asking me if I had to be crying and sad all day,” he said. “That's one reason blues isn't widely popular now. Youngsters today think you have to be in a bad situation to have the blues.”
The diminutive Chicago native got his start at playing slide guitar naturally, following in the footsteps of his uncle, the legendary Chicago bluesman J.B. Hutto. That's also where Li'l Ed, now 54, developed his singular stage presence, in which his more rocking tunes might be accompanied by duck-walking, sliding, flipping on his back, and leaps and bounds into the audience.
It's impossible to see a Li'l Ed show, with his veteran band The Blues Imperials, and not be captivated by his vitality, not to mention his musical virtuosity on his instrument.
How Li'l Ed's music went from Chicago clubs to international renown is a story Hollywood would love. Recruited to play a couple of tunes for an Alligator Records' compilation of young talent, Li'l Ed and his band awed the record company execs so much with their playing the group ended up recording 30 songs in one three-hour session. That became the basis for his 1986 debut album, “Roughhousin’,” and it was an immediate success.
The Blues Imperials – Pookie Jones on bass, Mike Garrett on guitar, and Kelly Littleton on drums – have been together for years.
“It's not an easy job, being a bandleader, and I've learned some things the hard way,” said Li'l Ed. “But if you treat everybody right, and with respect, they will stick with you.”
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