BABY FACE WILLETTE –
Journalist Bobby Tanzilo published an extensive and thoroughly researched biographical sketch of the life and career of organist Baby Face Willette on onmilwaukee.com on September 11. Willette periodically resided in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
September 11 is the date of birth of Baby Face Willette.
Baby Face Willette is the much-admired but enigmatic organist who released two albums on Blue Note in 1961 – Face To Face and Stop And Listen and two albums on Argo in 1964 – Mo’ Rock and Behind The 8 Ball. He was also featured on Lou Donaldson’s Here ‘Tis and Grant Green’s Grant’s First Stand in 1961. Willette was rooted in gospel and r&b and loved Charlie Parker, a combination that resulted in a unique, groovin’ and single-line style most everybody just feels from the first beats is the real thing.
(Baby Face Willette’s legacy as a jazz artist: six records.)
Like a mine digger with the eye on diamonds, Tanzilo put together Willette’s story from various sources, including Willette’s son Steven. Yes, Willette resided in Milwaukee but the sharp-dressed cat with the youthful demeanor was all over the place, traveling the country in spells that led him from his gospel-infused youth, career as r&b-artist to the famous Blue Note headquarters and, finally, to the obscurity of Mid-Western clubs and his early demise in 1971. The article’s design is a treat and includes fantastic previously unreleased picture material.
Do yourself a favor. Stop and read.