Blind Connie Williams – Take My Hand

Blind Connie Williams

Blind Connie Williams was born blind in southern Florida circa 1915 to parents who were migrant farm workers. During his youth, he attended the St. Petersburg School for the Blind (also Ray Charles’ alma mater) and became sufficiently proficient on guitar to begin a career as a street musician in the 1930s. He eventually settled in Philadelphia in 1935 and often traveled to New York City, where he plied his trade in Harlem during his visits. It was there that he met Rev. Gary Davis, whose influence can be heard in Williams’ guitar and singing style. His repertory was an extremely eclectic one. As a street musician, he primarily performed sacred material, although he knew a number of proto-blues folk songs and topical material from the 1930s and 1940s as well. He was also familiar with a few blues compositions, but as the booklet notes point out, he preferred “8- or 16-bar blues to the more widespread 12-bar form.” Welding discovered Williams performing sanctified numbers to accordion accompaniment in a historically black neighborhood of Philadelphia sometime in 1961. After striking up a friendship, Williams revealed to the music writer that he had originally been a guitarist but used an accordion because it could be more easily heard and required less physical effort to play, both being important characteristics for an aging street musician’s instrument to have. Not long afterward, Welding purchased a guitar for him. After reacquainting himself with the instrument, Williams was ready to record the material that appears here. Although the blind street musician may have been one of the first artists that Welding recorded, the results of this session were not released on his Testament label until 1974. The CD version includes seven bonus tracks that were not featured on the original album.

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