Jazz Piano, Free Jazz, Hard Bop, Swing, Big Band, Third Stream, Gospel, Classical
20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. 60’s, 70’s
Born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs May 8, 1910 Atlanta, GA
Pittsburgh, PA 1915?-1927?
First Public performance age 6. Known as the little piano girl of East Liberty (Pittsburgh neighborhood). Played with Duke Ellington’s band the Washingtonians at 15. Married saxophonist John Williams in 1927 and moved to Memphis to join his band the Syncopators.
Memphis, TN, Oklahoma City OK, Tulsa, OK 1928-1929?
John Joined Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy. The band eventually accepted a longstanding engagement in Kansas City.
Kansas City, KS 1929?- 1941
Though not originally a member of the band she often stood in for their unreliable (read drunk) pianist and also served as arranger and composer of songs Walking and Singing, Twinklin’ and Little Joe From Chicago. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCnOgKMRgK0 . Mary Lou joined the band for a recording session in Chicago and improvised two piano solos Drag “em and Nightlife http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D28FlIuZhJg . Soon after she was hired as the Twelve Clouds of Joy’s permanent piano player. She also worked as a freelance arranger for the likes of Earl Hines, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. Duke described Mary Lou as Soul on Soul. In 1941 Mary Lou Divorced John, quit the band and returned briefly to Pittsburgh, joined Harold “Shorty” Baker’s Band, married Baker. He then joined Duke Ellington’s band and they moved to New York.
New York NY 1942-1952
Mary Lou accepted a regular gig at Cafe Society and started a weekly radio show on WNEW called Mary Lou Williams Piano Workshop. She also began mentoring younger musicians such as Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Mary Lou’s Harlem apartment became an after after hours hangout for these young musicians and could be called the birthplace of bop. She composed Dizzy’s it In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee. Mary Lou later recalled during a melody maker interview “During this period Monk and the kids would come to my apartment every morning around four or pick me up at the Café after I’d finished my last show, and we’d play and swap ideas until noon or later”. Some of these Cafe society dates were with Billie Holiday, just the two of them on stage, sadly none of these dates were recorded and if i live to see time travel Cafe Society 1944 would be my first destination. In 1945 Mary Lou recorded the Zodiac Suite, writing a song for musicians born under each signhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRlmx36OZXU .
Accepted an offer to perform in London and stayed in Europe for two years.
New York, NY 1954-1976
After returning Mary Lou took a hiatus from performing and concentrated on her work for the Bel Canto Foundation an effort she started to help musicians cope with their addictions and return to performing. Encouraged by Dizzy and her future manager Father Peter O’Brien she finally returned to performing herself at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival. Later Mary Lou would form her own record label, Mary’s Records, helped found the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival, recorded The History of Jazz, Music for Peace and Mary Lou’s Mass and opened thrift stores in Harlem.
Durham, NC 1977- May 28, 1981
In 1977 Mary Lou accepted a post at Duke University to teach a course on the history of jazz and direct the Duke Jazz ensemble. Mary Lou died of bladder cancer on May 28. 1981. In 1983 Duke University established the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.
1980 Montreal? – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3-B9vSFSb4
Little Joe From Chicago – same show? – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kUjg5HJABI
1978 – my blue heaven – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X5sVnZvaVQ
On Mister Rodgers – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjM63eZmsao
A Great day in Harlem- 1958 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqu_XC0E2jg&list=PL7991D6F803CE073D
Dat Dere – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4OFmS5WNdc
Mary’s Boogie – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyxNsJe-JgQ
Tisherome – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVAtUsEKpt8
Froggy Bottom -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8fjcIzc9j4
Hesitation Boogie – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrLVBFjvwcI
gjon mili jam session – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMchad89PlA
solo piano 1944- http://www.tvballa.com/video-gallery/Mary-Lou-Williams
1976 interview – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkyKaCQOVq8
syl-o-gism – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_LL0QFkI4E
Mary Lou Williams on the Web:
Ephemera press: http://ephemerapress.com/david-mary.html
jazz photos: http://www.jazzphotos.com/williams.php
Mary Lou Williams Foundation: http://marylouwilliams.org/marylou.htm
Institute of Jazz Studies: http://newarkwww.rutgers.edu/IJS/MLWilliams_collection_new.html
Linda Dahl Section at Duke: http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/dahllinda/
Jazz Police : http://www.jazzpolice.com/content/view/6010/79/
Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture: http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/mlw
Children’s Concert Vancouver 1978: http://vancouverjazz.com/2011/05/mary-lou-williams-childrens-concert-1977.html
Published Arrangements: http://www.ejazzlines.com/Jazz-Big-Band-Arrangements-by-Mary-Lou-Williams-c1394.html
Women in History Bio: http://www.wcsufm.org/post/women-history-mary-lou-williams
Bio at Rutgers: http://newarkwww.rutgers.edu/ijs/mlw/intro2.html
Bio Kennedy Center: http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/jazz/womeninjazz/1stlady.html
Bio at Carnegie library: http://www.carnegielibrary.org/research/music/pittsburgh/marylouwilliams.html
Bio at Harlem.org: http://www.harlem.org/people/williams.html
Bio at Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/644372/Mary-Lou-Williams
African American Registry bio: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/mary-lou-williams-played-piano-spiritual-style
Women in Jazz bio: http://wijsf.com/jazzwomen/marylouwilliams.htm
Pittsburgh Music History Bio : https://sites.google.com/site/pittsburghmusichistory/pittsburgh-music-story/jazz/jazz—early-years/mary-lou-williams
ITVS documentary: http://www.itvs.org/films/mary-lou-williams
Women Make Movies : http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c304.shtml
Internet Archive: http://archive.org/details/MaryLouWilliams-01-08
– though the piano player in Boy what a Girl is actually Beryl Booker
In her own words:
1954 Melody Maker – http://www.ratical.org/MaryLouWilliams/MMiview1954.html
1978 San Francisco – http://www.ratical.org/MaryLouWilliams/ItsAllGreat.html
Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams
Kernodle, Tammy L.
Soul on Soul: the Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams
A historical novel based on the early life of jazz legend Mary Lou Williams.
Set in 1920s Pittsburgh, 13-year-old Mary was marked from birth by the “sign of the caul,” a powerful signifier in African-American culture. The caul indicates rare powers, especially a tendency toward “second sight.” Mary’s special gift of seeing manifests itself in visions of ghosts and spirits and culminates in an uncanny musical ability.