4 November 1911
Shelby County, Tennessee, United States
5 October 1993 (aged 81)
Memphis Willie B. (November 4, 1912 – October 5, 1993) was an American Memphis blues guitarist, harmonica player, singer and songwriter.
He was known for his work with Jack Kelly's Jug Busters, the Memphis Jug Band, and his resurgence in the 1960s after years away from the music industry. He recorded "The Stuff Is Here" and "Stop Cryin' Blues". His 1961 song, "Overseas Blues", retrospectively expressed the fear of World War II servicemen who had survived the conflict in Europe, of joining the Pacific War.
William Borum was born in 1912 (according to some sources 1911) in Shelby County, Tennessee, USA. He was taught to play the guitar by his father, and busked with Jack Kelly's Jug Busters in his teenage years. He quickly moved on to work with the Memphis Jug Band, who played both locally and at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. He extended his repertoire after being taught to play the harmonica by Noah Lewis.
Willie B. slowly developed away from a disciplined jug band style, and played at various locations with Robert Johnson, Garfield Akers, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Willie Brown, who periodically travelled up from the Delta to play. Willie B. first recorded at the age of 23, in September 1934 in New York, for Vocalion Records. However, that part of his career was brief as he returned to working locally, in the company of Little Son Joe, Will Shade and Joe Hill Louis. He signed up with the U.S. Army in January 1942, and served in the North African invasion (Operation Torch) in December 1942, and later in Italy.
When demobilized he discovered musician's work hard to find, and eventually took up regular paid employment. He only returned to the music industry in the early 1960s, and recorded sufficient material for two albums for Bluesville Records in Memphis in 1961. This provided the impetus for a resurgence in his musical career, and Willie B. played at various music festivals and in coffeehouses. Often he worked alongside Gus Cannon and Furry Lewis, reliving their mutual early Memphis days.
Willie B. once stated, "A blues is about something that's real. It's about what a man feels when his wife leaves him, or about some disappointment that happens to him that he can't do anything about. That's why none of these young boys can really sing the blues. They don't know about the things that go into a blues".
However, Willie B. abruptly stopped playing in the late 1960s, and little was heard of him prior to his death in 1993.
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