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Bluer Than Blue

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 11, 2005 2:35PM

2005_08_11_williams.jpgWest Side resident and local blues legend Emery “Detroit Junior” Williams Jr. died on Tuesday at the age of 73, leaving behind memories of a man whose wild performance style and humor kept him in the public eye despite the loss of a leg due to diabetes.

Williams began performing in Michigan clubs around the age of 19 and arrived in Chicago during the 1950s, where he acquired the Detroit Junior moniker. A tireless songwriter whose songs included “Call My Job” and “Money Tree”, Williams was also a longtime sideman for Howlin’ Wolf. Despite his health problems, Williams continued performing in Chicago clubs well into his later years. His onstage persona often resembled that of Jerry Lee Lewis and he was often seen playing the piano while lying on the floor.

Detroit Junior’s death follows the passing of another great blues guitarist last week: Little Milton Campbell. Milton suffered a stroke on July 27th then lapsed into a coma. He died in a Tennessee hospital August 4th. Milton, a member of the Blues Hall of Fame, was born in Mississippi and recorded his first hit for the Sun Records label in Memphis. Throughout his career he would be associated with other great Southern bluesmen like Tyrone Davis, Johnnie Taylor and Bobby “Blue” Bland.

Though he achieved some measure of popular success and a near-legendary status in the blues community, Milton is best described as a classic journeyman blues guitarist. After leaving Memphis, he recorded in St. Louis before arriving in Chicago and beginning a long association in the 1960s with Checker Records, part of the Chess label, where he recorded his biggest hit “We’re Gonna Make It,” which later became a civil rights anthem. After Chess folded, he returned to Memphis to record for Stax Records and spent most of the ‘90s on the Delmark label. Milton is survived by his wife Pat Campbell and the incomparable blues standard “Grits Ain’t Groceries.”