South Carolinian Jack Williams, guitarist/singer/songwriter/storyteller, is outstanding among a handful of artists who - in skill, depth and integrity – stand head and shoulders above the many performers flooding today’s folk circuit. Among acoustic guitarists he is near-legendary. Having avoided the compromises of the commercial music industry during his 50+-year professional career, he prefers touring “under the radar”, playing concerts, large and small, week in and week out, from the sheer love of music and performing.
Jack is now a sought-after artist on contemporary acoustic - or "folk" - music stages. From his acclaimed appearances at the Newport, Boston, Philadelphia, Kerrville, (New Bedford) SummerFest and other Folk Festivals, his musicianship, songs, stories and commanding presence established him as an uncommonly inspiring and influential performer.
Jack has seven CDs of original music on the Wind River (Folk Era) label, plus his DVD “High Cotton”, an eclectic collection of on-stage performances. His CD “Don’t Let Go” is a collection of cover songs reflecting the major influences on his musical development.
Kevin Oliver of NO DEPRESSION said, “….a musical style that’s equal parts folk storytelling and Tin Pan Alley songcraft, delivered with the impassioned soul of an old blues singer.”
As a guitarist, he accompanied Tom Paxton, Peter Yarrow, Mickey Newbury and Harry Nilsson. Invited onstage by Arlo Guthrie to sing a song, he then joined the group for the concert encores. He produced all of his own recordings plus CDs by Mickey Newbury, Eric Schwartz, Carla Ulbrich, The Malvinas, and Ronny Cox.
Friendships with two great singers had an enormous impact on the rest of Jack's career. In 1973, his relationship with the late Harry Nilsson resulted in an ill-fated album effort at RCA during a time of music industry turmoil. Until recently, he toured as sole accompanist to his friend, the late legendary songwriter, Mickey Newbury, with whom he recorded a live album and video, Nights When I Am Sane (reissued as Winter Winds). In 1996, Jack played, co-produced and co-wrote songs on Mickey's CD, Lulled By The Moonlight, which became Billboard's CD pick-of-the-week.
Mickey Newbury said, "Jack and his music are an American treasure"
From 1958 through 1987, Jack was best-known as an electric guitarist in a series of original rock bands and smaller acoustic ensembles. In the late 60's, he gave in to his troubadour nature and began performing solo - singing and playing a gut-string guitar and touring from coast to coast. Before beginning to write in 1970, Jack was inspired by the varied likes of Jesse Winchester, Josh White, Hank Williams, Johnny Mercer, and Ray Charles. When the spirit moves him today, songs from favorite writers spring readily from his lips and fingers.
Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) called Jack "The best guitar-player I've ever heard"
As a hired-gun guitarist in the Deep South of the Civil Rights-Easy Rider 60's, Jack worked shows with John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Turner, Jerry Butler, Z.Z. Hill, Hank Ballard and many others. During that era, his bands also backed up artists such as the Shirelles, the Del-Vikings, the Coasters, the Drifters, and the Platters.
Jack's career has been nothing if not eclectic. He played trumpet in a jazz quartet in a beatnik coffeehouse in Seattle in 1959 - reading poetry to the audience during breaks. He learned banjo and mandolin to spice up folk groups in the 60's in Georgia. He played pedal-steel guitar in a country-rock band, and classical guitar/lute in a Renaissance ensemble. His skill with instrumental composition won him a national arts grant in 1967. This led to his later arrangements for other artists’ recordings (Jonnell Mosser, The Malvinas, Mickey Newbury, Ronny Cox).
Vic Heyman in SING OUT! says “…one of the strongest guitar players in contemporary folk.”
Jack Williams’ music sparkles from all these influences – creating truly all-American southern music.