You might have noticed that entertainer/songwriter Paul Williams has been in the news this Summer as the subject of an award-winning documentary titled Paul Williams: Still Alive. But there is another Paul Williams deserving of some attention, a guy who was a rock and roll pioneer. His claim to fame was something called the Hucklebuck.
It all came together in the late 1940s, when aspects of jazz and R&B were beginning to coalesce into a sound that would become a strong influence on early rock and roll. Saxophonist Paul Williams had already found some success by working with guys like King Porter and by leading his own group, and he’d even had a couple of minor hits, including a good, baritone sax-driven tune named “35-40.” But his real claim to fame came when he took a Charlie Parker instrumental called “Now’s The Time” and cranked up the funk, also adding a little jive talk.
The record became a huge hit, so much so that he even began billing his band as Paul Williams and the Hucklebuckers. In fact, it was so popular that lots of other performers began doing their own versions, some with extended lyrics. They ranged all the way from Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman’s conservative takes on the song to Frank Sinatra’s decidedly unusual one. In later years it would also be a hit for Chubby Checker and be performed by countless others, including Lawrence Welk! But even though Paul ‘Hucklebuck’ Williams would continue to pursue a musical career for the next couple of decades, he wouldn’t again approach the song’s success.
Paul Williams – “The Hucklebuck”