Born: 1910 AL

Died: 1957

Blues Vocals, Guitar Brownie McGhee

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Ralph Willis (1910 – June 11, 1957)[2] was an American Piedmont and country blues singer, guitarist and songwriter.[1] Some of his Savoy records were released under pseudonyms, such as Alabama Slim, Washboard Pete and Sleepy Joe.[1] ralph bama willis


Willis was born circa 1910 near Birmingham, Alabama.[2] In the late 1930s, Willis moved to North Carolina and started to play along with musicians who were familiar with Blind Boy Fuller. Willis recorded his debut material in 1944, and continued until 1953, issuing fifty tracks via several record labels including Savoy, Signature, 20th Century, Abbey, Jubilee, Prestige, Par, and King Records.[1]

Similar to Gabriel Brown, Alec Seward and Brownie McGhee, Willis relocated to New York.[3] Willis originally recorded singly, but record label demands saw him used more frequently with accompaniment. Judson Coleman joined Willis on his 20th Century recordings, and in 1949, McGhee was employed. His latter recordings utilised both McGhee and Sonny Terry.[1]

Willis employed an array of musical styles from slow blues to uptempo country dance tracks. However he spurned the growing popularity of folk-blues and R&B.[1] He was musically conscious of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Luke Jordan, but later recordings saw his guitar style leaning towards the booming resonance of Lightnin' Hopkins.[3]

Willis died in New York in June 1957.[1]

Selected discography

Faded Picture Blues (1970) - King
Carolina Blues (1974) - Blues Classics
Ralph Willis Vol. 1 1944-1951 (1994) - Document
Ralph Willis Vol. 2 1951-1953 (1994) - Document[4][5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lewis, Uncle Dave. "Ralph Willis". Allmusic. Retrieved February 5, 2010.
  2. ^ a b - accessed February 2010 ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997).
  3. The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 190. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  4. ^ "Allmusic ((( Ralph Willis > Discography > Compilations )))".
  5. ^ "Allmusic ((( Ralph Willis > Discography > Main Albums )))".


More info:

Illustrated discography:

Allmusic biography:

Video: Ralph Willis - New Goin' Down Slow

Video: RALPH WILLIS i'm gonna rock.


iTunes: Ralph Willis

Amazon: Ralph Willis

Subscribe to Newsletter

Rick Carter Radio - All Alabama Music

Accepting submissions and adding them daily. Artists can send their songs in MP3's to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. One song per email. Graphics and song and artist info should be included of course.

This space
for rent!

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.