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Jason Donald Williams (1959–)

El Dorado (Union County) native Jason Donald Williams is a pianist, singer, and songwriter based in Memphis, Tennessee, whose music combines elements of rockabilly, boogie-woogie, rock and roll, country, and jazz. Often compared to Jerry Lee Lewis, Williams is known for his dynamic piano-playing style and outlandish stage antics (including balancing items on his head and tap-dancing). Williams’s inspirations include Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Memphis Slim.

Jason D. Williams was born on January 28, 1959, in El Dorado and is the adopted son of Henry J. Williams Jr. and Dorothy Carpenter Williams. Williams learned to play the piano by ear when he was two years old and received a piano at the age of three. He took lessons from Roger Lawson, a musician living in El Dorado. At the age of sixteen, Williams left El Dorado to perform with rockabilly musician Sleepy LaBeef in northeastern Massachusetts.

Williams began his solo career in the 1980s, signing with RCA Records. He released his first album, Tore Up, in 1990 and recorded his second album, Wild (1993), at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. Williams later released Don’t Get None Onya’ (2004), Killer Instincts (2010), and Recycled (2011). His 2014 album Hillbillies and Holy Rollers was also recorded at Sun Studios. He has played backup for Johnny Rivers, Dale Watson, Billy Ray Cyrus, and others.

Williams married Jennifer James in April 2004. They have one son.

Williams’s hands appear in the piano-playing scenes of Great Balls of Fire! (1989), a film based on the life of Jerry Lee Lewis. He is also featured in The War Room (1993), a documentary about Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. Williams has appeared on numerous television shows and radio programs.

On tours, Williams shares the stage with James “Cadillac” Crumb on bass and vocals, Rodney Polk on drums, Canyon Williams on tambourine, and James “Popcorn” Irvin on drums, guitar, and vocals. The band plays about 200 shows a year.

For additional information:
Dauphin, Chuck. “Jason D. Williams Talks ‘Hillbillies and Holy Rollers’ Album & Vaudeville Inspiration.” Billboard, September 8, 2014. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-615/6244071/jason-d-williams-hillbillies-holy-rollers-interview (accessed April 22, 2015).

Gennet, Robbie. “Jason D. Williams: Kindred of the Killer.” Keyboard Magazine, March 22, 2011. http://www.keyboardmag.com/artists/1236/jason-d-williams-kindred-of-the-killer/28217 (accessed April 22, 2015).

“Jason D. Williams.” Sun Records. http://www.sunrecords.com/artists/jason-d-williams (accessed April 22, 2015).

Rockin’ Jason D. Williams. www.rockinjasondwilliams.com (accessed April 22, 2015).

Amy Ulmer
Arkansas State University

Last Updated 8/26/2016

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