(1935-1999) - Wee Willie Williams was born in Millinocket, Maine in December of 1935. He
got his musical start while attending high school at Lee Academy in Lee,
Maine, where he met bandmates Roberta (Robbie) Merrill, Dave Dalton and
Donna Dicker. The four formed the group The Northern Lights, which enjoyed
notable success in the northeast and Canada; the young foursome also
had their own radio and television programs on Bangor, Maine station WABI.
After marrying bandmate Roberta (Robbie) Merrill, Williams, Robbie and Dave
Dalton headed south to WCMS in Portsmouth, Virginia. Willie and Robbie had their first child,
a daughter they named Robin, during their time in Virginia.
Despite notable New
England accents, they reformed as the trio The Virginians, playing for WCMS
in studio and performing throughout the tidewater area. Robbie and Willie
also served as disc jockies for the station, where Willie first met Sheriff
Tex Davis and Gene Vincent.
Willie enjoyed his time with the Blue Caps, and always said that Gene was a
very likable, "real" person and a nice guy.
After leaving the Blue Caps, Willie headed for Richmond, Virginia, where he
spun records for WRNL. From there it was on to Syracuse, New York, where he
joined the staff at WSEN, and took on the nickname "Early" for his early
morning broadcast spot. He continued to perform live music during his years
in Syracuse. The Williams family added a son, Mark, during their years in
Willie with his daughter Robin on Easter Sunday, 1962
In 1967 Williams left New York for Kansas City, where he became a popular
disc jockey for KCKN. One year later the destination was Nashville,
Tennessee. In his time there Williams worked first for radio station WENO,
then for Newkey Publishing before moving to a position as Public Relations
and Promotion Director for Tree International, at the time the world's
largest independent publisher of country music. Ever busy, he worked with
The Johnny Cash television show and House of Cash; he also co-wrote several
country songs and did studio production work during his years with Tree.
Williams did an album for Golden Books'
recording division during the 1970's, doing all the narration for a musical
children's LP of Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer." He was a
huge Mark Twain fan, and thought it was a real honor and privilege to be
selected to do the album.
In 1982 Williams pulled up stakes and headed for Honolulu, where he spent
several months working in the insurance industry. After an amicable divorce
from wife Robbie, Williams headed for Bradenton, Florida, where he later
married second wife Barbra. Bradenton fast became his favorite place to be,
and Early (Willie) became a prominent member of the Manatee County community
throughout the years. Initially he worked once again in radio, at station
WTRL; eventually he became a bright light in the employee leasing field at
Meridian Staffing, where he was a top sales executive. Music
continued to be a dominant interest, and Early (Willie) always had a guitar
or mandolin handy.
Willie pictured with his son Mark in Bradenton, Florida, mid 1990's
Sadly, Early (Willie) passed away as the result of a shooting accident on
August 28, 1999 in Bradenton, Florida. He never met a stranger, and the
love of music sustained him throughout his life.
Text and photos courtesy Robin Williams Griffin, Willie's daughter
"Wee Willie" Williams was Gene Vincent's first rhythm guitarist and played in such classic tracks as:
"Be Bop-A-Lula," "Race with the Devil" and "Woman Love."
Willie when he was with The Virginians for WCMS; this
would be right at the time he met Gene. With him in the photo are (then)
wife Robbie Williams and Dave Dalton, who were also bandmates in the
Northern Lights when they were all still living in Maine.
Willie with his wife Barbra during an evening out in Washington, D.C. in
Sad News Item: August 28, 1999
"Wee Willie," Original Blue Cap, Dies
MANATEE, FL -
A 63-year-old man accidentally shot himself to death about 12:30 p.m. Saturday in front of his
Harbor Hills home in west Bradenton, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Early L. Williams and a friend, Daniel Tau, were talking about going to a shooting range while
they were in the driveway of Williams' home, 828 Hillcrest Drive, authorities reported.
Williams was removing a duffel bag from the back seat of a car and trying to retrieve something
from it, when a gun inside the bag fired a single shot, reports stated.
The bullet struck Williams in his left side, just below the chest, authorities said.
"When he went to get the bag out of the back seat, he apparently asked (Tau) if he needed his
targets," said Dave Bristow, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. "While (Williams) was
reaching in the bag, (Tau) said he didn't need them, then boom! The gun went off."
Williams was taken to Blake Medical Center and pronounced dead on arrival, Bristow said.
Deputies roped off the home with yellow tape while investigating the case.
They looked through the red-and-black duffel bag, which sat on the driveway toward the
rear of the car.
The men had presumed Williams' .38-caliber revolver was unloaded, Bristow said, adding the
revolver did not have a trigger lock or safety. News of Williams' death saddened neighbors, friends and former
colleagues. Dave McKeever knew Williams when they worked together at WBRD, a local AM radio station, in the
1970s. "He was a disc jockey there," said McKeever, who was the station's news director until
1991. "No matter how weird things got in the radio business, he could always see the humor in it
and keep a smile on his face." In recent years, McKeever said he ran into Williams at the Manatee County Fair where
Williams sometimes served as an announcer. "He was very involved in the fair," he said, "and he was
an eternal optimist."
WEE WILLIE RECALLED vividly his first night playing with Gene (before any records were cut):
"He came up wearing a cast and sang "Be Bop A Lula"
and all the chicks went nuts." "Wee" Willie takes a view of Gene's sudden success and sums it
up quite articulately: "Vincent was easy to work with and knew exactly what he was doing.
From the minute I met him I found him to be agreeable. There was no arrogance or egotism. He
was a guy from relative humble beginnings who was a little bewildered by his sudden success.
I thought he handled it pretty well. Though I seem to recall he spent a lot of money."
Willie has fond memories of his days with the Blue Caps: "Gene was very friendly. People were
always looking for someone who'd act outrageous, but he didn't. He was just a good guy. On
stage, Gene was a stylist and a communicator. And very exciting. Offstage, Gene would have a
beer or two, but he was more interested in the ladies. Cliff was quiet, the kind of guy you
wouldn't fool with. He was a no-nonsense person. But Dickie was my favorite. He was innocent,
a thoroughly fine young man, a good cat." When Willie Williams quit, a guitarist named Teddy Crutchfield
came up from Norfolk to replace him.
DICKIE HARREL COMMENTS ON THE PASSING OF "WILLIE": When the Rockabilly Hall of Fame called Dickie Harrell to get his reaction, Dickie said,
"Man, what a shock and what a strange way go to. Willie a was a little guy with those long sideburns,
jumping all over the place, just as crazy as the rest of us. I don't think anyone knows how
talented he really was. He could play, sing, whatever. He was working for radio station WCMS at
the time we formed the Blue Caps, doing grand openings, car shows and stuff with his wife Robbie in a
band called the Virginians. I hope all his fans both here and overseas will miss him as much as I will.
A super nice guy, always full on energy even his later years. I'm sure he's jamming with Gene and Cliff as
Click Here to check on a London newspaper obituary ducument on Willie.
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