Swamp Dogg

Last updated
Swamp Dogg
Background information
Birth nameJerry Williams, Jr.
Also known asLittle Jerry
Little Jerry Williams
Born (1942-07-12) July 12, 1942 (age 76)
Portsmouth, Virginia, US
Genres Soul, R&B, country, disco
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1954–present
LabelsMechanic, Calla, Musicor, Cotillion, Canyon, Elektra, Stone Dogg, Alive Naturalsound Records
Website theswampdogg.com

Jerry Williams, Jr. (born July 12, 1942), generally credited under the pseudonym Swamp Dogg after 1970, is an American soul and R&B singer, musician, songwriter and record producer. Williams has been described as "one of the great cult figures of 20th century American music." [1]

Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the African American community in the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues and jazz. Soul music became popular for dancing and listening in the United States, where record labels such as Motown, Atlantic and Stax were influential during the Civil Rights Movement. Soul also became popular around the world, directly influencing rock music and the music of Africa.


After recording as Little Jerry and Little Jerry Williams in the 1950s and 1960s, he reinvented himself as Swamp Dogg, releasing a series of satirical, offbeat, and eccentric recordings, as well as continuing to write and produce for other musicians. He debuted his new sound on the Total Destruction To Your Mind album in 1970. In the 1980s, he helped to develop Alonzo Williams' World Class Wreckin' CRU, which produced Dr. Dre among others. [2] He continues to make music, releasing Love, Loss & Autotune on Joyful Noise Recordings in 2018. [3] [4]

World Class Wreckin Cru band that plays electro

World Class Wreckin' Cru was an electro group, best known for its contributions to early rap and its association with Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and Michel'le.

Dr. Dre American rapper, record producer, entrepreneur and actor from California

Andre Romelle Young, known professionally as Dr. Dre, is an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics, and was previously co-owner of Death Row Records. He has produced albums for and overseen the careers of many rappers, including 2Pac, The D.O.C., Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Xzibit, Knoc-turn'al, 50 Cent, The Game, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak. He is credited as a key figure in the crafting and popularization of West Coast G-funk, a rap style characterized as synthesizer-based with slow, heavy beats. As of 2018, he is the third richest figure in hip hop, with a net worth of $770 million.

Joyful Noise Recordings American independent record label from Indianapolis, Indiana

Joyful Noise Recordings is an independent record label from Indianapolis, Indiana. The label was founded in 2003 in Bloomington, Indiana by Karl Hofstetter, who also played drums on many of the label's first releases. Joyful Noise currently has a roster of 20+ bands of various musical styles, though according to the label, each artist "in one way or another bridges this gap between pop and noise." Along with housing offices and the warehouse of the label, their Fountain Square location hosts live shows and a small record store.


Early life and recording career

Williams was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. He made his first recording, "HTD Blues (Hardsick Troublesome Downout Blues)", for the Mechanic record label in 1954, when he was aged 12. From 1960, he released occasional singles for a variety of labels, including the self-written "I'm The Lover Man" in 1964, which was first issued on the Southern Sound label and was then picked up by the larger Loma label, almost breaking into the national Billboard Hot 100. [5] [6] He also wrote successfully for other musicians, including "Big Party" for Barbara and the Browns. [6]

Portsmouth, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Portsmouth is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 95,535. It is part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area.

A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Sometimes, a record label is also a publishing company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos, while also conducting talent scouting and development of new artists, and maintaining contracts with recording artists and their managers. The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information. Within the mainstream music industry, recording artists have traditionally been reliant upon record labels to broaden their consumer base, market their albums, and be both promoted and heard on music streaming services, radio, and television. Record labels also provide publicists, who assist performers in gaining positive media coverage, and arrange for their merchandise to be available via stores and other media outlets.

Loma Records was an American subsidiary record label of Warner Bros. Records ran by Bob Krasnow. Its name was derived from Loma Avenue, where its offices were held. It was started as an entry into the R&B market.

As Little Jerry Williams, he had his first national chart success in 1966, when "Baby You're My Everything", which he co-wrote and produced, was released on the Calla label and rose to #32 on the R&B chart, again just missing the Hot 100. [7] [8] He released several more singles on Calla through to 1967, by now credited simply as Jerry Williams, but with little commercial success, although some of his records such as "If You Ask Me (Because I Love You)" later became staples of the Northern Soul movement in the UK. [5]

Calla Records was a small, New York City-based independent black owned Soul record label run by Nate McCalla (1930-1980) and active from approximately 1965 to 1977.

By late 1967 he started working in A&R and other duties for the Musicor label in New York. [9] In 1968 he co-wrote, with Charlie Foxx, Gene Pitney's up-tempo hit, "She's a Heartbreaker", which Williams also claimed to have produced, saying: "I produced the motherfuck out of it... [and] Charlie Foxx put me down on the label as "vocal arranger." What the fuck is that? When they took out full-page ads in Billboard and Cashbox, there was a picture of Charlie on one side and a picture of Gene Pitney on the other and no mention of me." [10]

Musicor Records was a New York City-based record label, active during the 1960s and 1970s. The label was founded by songwriter Aaron Schroeder and distributed by United Artists Records. In 1965, UA employee and A&R man Art Talmadge started his own Talmadge Productions company and, along with fellow UA employee/A&R man Harold "Pappy" Daily, bought the Musicor label from UA.

Gene Pitney American singer and songwriter

Gene Francis Alan Pitney was an American singer-songwriter, musician, and sound engineer.

Later in 1968 Williams began working as a producer at Atlantic Records with Jerry Wexler and Phil Walden. [1] [11] He also established a songwriting partnership with Gary Anderson, who performed as Gary U.S. Bonds, and the pair wrote the R&B chart hits "To the Other Woman (I'm the Other Woman)" by Doris Duke, and "She Didn't Know (She Kept on Talking)" by Dee Dee Warwick. [6] He also recorded a single, "I Got What It Takes", in a duo with Brooks O'Dell, and released two singles under his own name on the Cotillion label, a subsidiary of Atlantic. [5]

Atlantic Records American record label

Atlantic Recording Corporation is an American record label founded in October 1947 by Ahmet Ertegün and Herb Abramson. Over its first 20 years of operation, Atlantic earned a reputation as one of the most important American labels, specializing in jazz, R&B, and soul by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Ruth Brown and Otis Redding. Its position was greatly improved by its distribution deal with Stax. In 1967, Atlantic became a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, now the Warner Music Group, and expanded into rock and pop music with releases by Led Zeppelin and Yes.

Jerry Wexler American music journalist and producer

Gerald "Jerry" Wexler was a music journalist-turned music producer, and was one of the main record industry players behind music from the 1950s through the 1980s. He coined the term "rhythm and blues", and was integral in signing and/or producing many of the biggest acts of the time, including Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers, Chris Connor, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Wilson Pickett, Dire Straits, Dusty Springfield and Bob Dylan. Wexler was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and in 2017 to the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

Phil Walden American businessman

Phil Walden was co-founder of the Macon, Georgia-based Capricorn Records with Alan Walden and a close friend, former Atlantic Records executive Frank Fenter.

Work as Swamp Dogg

Williams later wrote: [12]

I became Swamp Dogg in 1970 in order to have an alter-ego and someone to occupy the body while the search party was out looking for Jerry Williams, who was mentally missing in action due to certain pressures, mal-treatments and failure to get paid royalties on over fifty single records.... Most all of the tracks included were recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Macon, Georgia, which brings me to how the name Swamp Dogg came about. Jerry Wexler, Atlantic Records v.p. and producer/innovator second to none, was recording in the newly discovered mecca of funk Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He coined the term "Swamp Music" for this awesome funk predominately played by all white musicians accompanying the R'n'B institutions e.g., Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis... I was also using the same "swamp" players. I was tired of being a jukebox, singing all of the hits by Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King, etc., and being an R'n'B second banana. I couldn't dance as good as Joe Tex, wasn't pretty like Tommy Hunt, couldn't compare vocally to Jackie Wilson and I didn't have the sex appeal of Daffy Duck. I wanted to sing about everything and anything and not be pigeonholed by the industry. So I came up with the name Dogg because a dog can do anything, and anything a dog does never comes as a real surprise; if he sleeps on the sofa, shits on the rug, pisses on the drapes, chews up your slippers, humps your mother-in-law's leg, jumps on your new clothes and licks your face, he's never gotten out of character. You understand what he did, you curse while making allowances for him but your love for him never diminishes. Commencing in 1970, I sung about sex, niggers, love, rednecks, war, peace, dead flies, home wreckers, Sly Stone, my daughters, politics, revolution and blood transfusions (just to name a few), and never got out of character. Recording in Alabama and sincerely singing/writing about items that interested me, gave birth to the name Swamp Dogg.

Having adopted his moniker before Snoop Dogg was born he has claimed to be "the original D-O double G." [13]

In 1970 he emerged in his new Swamp Dogg persona, with two singles on the Canyon label, "Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe", again co-written with Bonds, and "Synthetic World". He also produced the first Swamp Dogg album, Total Destruction to Your Mind. The album sleeve showed Williams sitting in his underwear on a pile of garbage. Williams' new direction apparently followed an LSD trip, and was inspired by the radical politics of the time and by Frank Zappa's use of satire, while showing his own expertise in, and commitment to, deep soul and R&B music. According to Allmusic: "In sheer musical terms, Swamp Dogg is pure Southern soul, anchored on tight grooves and accentuated by horns, but the Dogg is as much about message as music..." Although not a commercial success at the time, Swamp Dogg started to develop a cult following and eventually the album sold enough to achieve gold record status. [1] [14] It was reissued in 2013 by Alive Naturalsound Records. [15]

Around the same time, one of the songs Williams had co-written with Gary Bonds, "She's All I Got", became a top-ten R&B hit for Freddie North, and was recorded with even greater success by country star Johnny Paycheck, whose version reached #2 on the country music chart in late 1971. [6] In a later interview on NPR's Studio 360 , Williams stated he was raised on country music: "Black music didn't start 'til 10 at night until 4 in the morning and I was in bed by then... If you strip my tracks, take away all the horns and guitar licks, what you have is a country song." [16] However, he also continued to write and produce deep soul songs for other musicians, including Z. Z. Hill and Irma Thomas. [1] [6] In 1971 in collaboration with co-producer and writer the legendary George Semper he released "Monster Walk Pt. 1 and 2" by the Rhythm 'N' Blues Classical Funk Band on Mankind Records label. Produced for Jerry Williams Productions, Inc.and in spite of modest sales the record once again demonstrated his entrepreneurial skill as an artist. [17]

As Swamp Dogg, he was signed by Elektra Records for his second album, Rat On! in 1971. The sleeve showed him on the back of a giant white rat, and has frequently been ranked as one of the worst album covers of all time. [18] [19] [20] [21] Sales were relatively poor, and his next albums Cuffed, Collared and Tagged (1972) and Gag a Maggott (recorded at the TK Studio in 1973) were released on smaller labels, though his 1974 album, Have You Heard This Story??, was issued by Island Records. [1] In 1977 he had another minor R&B hit with "My Heart Just Can't Stop Dancing", credited to Swamp Dogg & the Riders of the New Funk. [7] He continued to release albums through the 1970s and into the mid-1980s as Swamp Dogg, on various small independent labels and in a variety of styles including disco and country and maintained a healthy cult following. He also set up his own publishing and recording company, Swamp Dogg Entertainment Group (SDEG). [1]

In 1999, "Slow Slow Disco" was sampled by Kid Rock on the track "I Got One for Ya", sparking a revival of interest in Swamp Dogg, who began performing live gigs for the first time. Several other of his recordings were sampled, and in 2009 he released two new albums, Give Em as Little as You Can...As Often as You Have To...Or...A Tribute to Rock N Roll, and An Awful Christmas and a Lousy New Year. He also released some further singles, and a compilation album of the best of his work as both Little Jerry Williams and Swamp Dogg, It's All Good, was released in 2009. Most of his early Swamp Dogg albums have also been reissued on CD. [1]

Recent work

Swamp Dogg released a full-length album of new songs in 2014, The White Man Made Me Do It, which Williams described as being a sort of sequel to Total Destruction To Your Mind. [22] [23] Shortly thereafter, Swamp Dogg teamed up with Ryan Olson from Poliça to produce the tracks for his 2018 album Love, Loss & Autotune, Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) fine-tuning the vocal tracks. [24] [25] The song also features instrumentation by Guitar Shorty. [26] The music video for "I'll Pretend" premiered at NPR [24] and was later featured at Rolling Stone, [27] Pitchfork, [28] Spin [29] and elsewhere. Swamp Dogg described the song as a character study about "a guy sitting in a restaurant by himself losing his fucking mind because he's hoping his woman is gonna walk by, but she's at a Ramada Inn somewhere fucking somebody else to death." [25]



Chart singles

Little Jerry Williams

  • "Baby, You're My Everything" (Calla, 1966, #32 R&B chart)

Swamp Dogg

  • "Mama's Baby - Daddy's Maybe" (Canyon, 1970, #33 R&B chart)
  • "My Heart Just Can't Stop Dancing" (Musicor, 1977, #71 R&B chart)

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