17 October, 2017

John Fante

John Fante was an Italian-American novelist, short story writer and screenwriter.

He is best known for his semi-autobiographical novel Ask the Dust (1939) about the life of a struggling writer, Arturo Bandini, in Depression-era Los Angeles. It is widely considered the great Los Angeles novel and is one in a series of four novels, published between 1938 and 1985, that are now collectively called "The Bandini Quartet". A movie of the same name was made in 2006, starring Colin Farrell. Fante published five novels, one novella, and a short story collection.

Additional works, including two novels, two novellas, and two short story collections, were published posthumously. His screen credits include, most notably, Full of Life (1956), based on his 1952 novel by that name, Jeanne Eagels (1957), and the 1962 films Walk on the Wild Side and The Reluctant Saint.

Fante was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1909, to his father, Nicola Fante from Torricella Peligna (Abruzzo), and his mother, Mary Capolungo of Lucanian descent. He attended various Catholic schools in Boulder, Colorado, before briefly enrolling at the University of Colorado. He dropped out of college in 1929 and moved to Southern California to focus on his writing. He wrote about writing and the people and places where he lived and worked, which included Wilmington, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, the Bunker Hill district of downtown Los Angeles, as well as various homes in Hollywood, Echo Park and Malibu.

After many unsuccessful attempts at publishing stories in the highly regarded literary magazine The American Mercury, his short story "Altar Boy" was accepted conditionally by the magazine's editor, H. L. Mencken.

By far, his most popular novel is the semi-autobiographical Ask the Dust, the third book in what is now referred to as "The Saga of Arturo Bandini" or "The Bandini Quartet". Bandini served as his alter ego in a total of four novels: Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1938), The Road to Los Angeles (chronologically, this is the first novel Fante wrote but it was unpublished until 1985), Ask the Dust (1939) and finally Dreams from Bunker Hill (1982), which was dictated to his wife, Joyce, towards the end of his life. Fante's use of Bandini as his alter ego can be compared to Charles Bukowski's character, Henry Chinaski. Bukowski himself was heavily influenced by Fante.

Other novels include Full of Life (1952), The Brotherhood of the Grape (1977), and 1933 Was a Bad Year (1985; incomplete). Two novellas, My Dog Stupid and The Orgy, were published in 1986 under the title West of Rome. His short story collection, Dago Red, was originally published in 1940, and then republished with a few additional stories in 1985 under the title The Wine of Youth.

Recurring themes in Fante's work are poverty, Catholicism, family life, Italian-American identity, sports and the writing life. Ask the Dust has been referred to over the years as a monumental Southern California/Los Angeles novel by a host of reputable sources (e.g.: Carey McWilliams, Charles Bukowski and The Los Angeles Times Book Review). More than sixty years after it was published, Ask the Dust appeared for several weeks on the New York Times' Best Sellers List. Fante's clear voice, vivid characters, shoot-from-the-hip style, and painful, emotional honesty blended with humor and scrupulous self-criticism lends his books to wide appreciation. Most of his novels and stories take place either in Colorado or California. Many of his novels and short stories also feature or focus on fictional incarnations of Fante's father, Nick Fante, as a cantankerous wine tippling, cigar stub-smoking bricklayer.

Fante's screenwriting credits include the comedy-drama Full of Life (1957), based on his novel of the same name, which starred Judy Holliday and Richard Conte, and was nominated for Best Written American Comedy at the 1957 WGA Awards. He also co-wrote Walk on the Wild Side (1962), which stars Jane Fonda in her second credited film role, based on the novel by Nelson Algren. His other screenplay credits include Dinky, Jeanne Eagels, My Man and I, The Reluctant Saint, Something for a Lonely Man and Six Loves.

Diabetes cost him his eyesight and led to the amputation of both legs. He died in 1983.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Rahsaan Roland Kirk was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist who played tenor saxophone, flute, and many other instruments. He was renowned for his onstage vitality, during which virtuoso improvisation was accompanied by comic banter, political ranting, and the ability to play several instruments simultaneously.

Kirk was born Ronald Theodore Kirk in Columbus, Ohio, where he lived in a neighborhood known as Flytown. He felt compelled by a dream to transpose two letters in his first name to make '"Roland". He became blind at an early age as a result of poor medical treatment.

Kirk's musical career spans from 1955 until his death in 1977. He preferred to lead his own bands and rarely performed as a sideman, although he did record with arranger Quincy Jones and drummer Roy Haynes and had notable stints with bassist Charles Mingus. One of his best-known recorded performances is the lead flute and solo on Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova", a 1964 hit song.

Kirk was politically outspoken. During his concerts, between songs he often talked about topical issues, including African-American history and the Civil Rights Movement. His monologues were often laced with satire and absurdist humor. According to comedian Jay Leno, when Leno toured with Kirk as Kirk's opening act, Kirk would introduce him by saying, "I want to introduce a young brother who knows the black experience and knows all about the white devils .... Please welcome Jay Leno!"

In 1975, Kirk suffered a major stroke which led to partial paralysis of one side of his body. He continued to perform and record, modifying his instruments to enable him to play with one arm.

He died from a second stroke in 1977 after performing in the Frangipani Room of the Indiana University Student Union in Bloomington, Indiana

Frederick Bruce Thomas

Frederick Bruce Thomas was an African American from Mississippi who became a prominent citizen of Moscow and, later, Constantinople (now known as Istanbul).

Thomas was born in 1872, the son of former slaves Hannah and Lewis Thomas. He left Mississippi for London, intending to work as a waiter but then moved to Russia, where he ran a series of theaters and restaurants. During the Russian Revolution, he fled to Turkey, where he had less success in business and became in debt. He found himself unable to return to the United States and died in a Turkish prison. He was buried in the Feriköy Protestant Cemetery in Constantinople.

Nat Hentoff

Nathan Irving "Nat" Hentoff was an American historian, novelist, jazz and country music critic, and syndicated columnist for United Media. Hentoff was a columnist for The Village Voice from 1958 to 2009.[1] Following his departure from The Village Voice, Hentoff became a senior fellow at the Cato institute, continued writing his music column for The Wall Street Journal, which published his works until his death. He often wrote on First Amendment issues, vigorously defending the freedom of the press.

Hentoff was formerly a columnist for: Down Beat, JazzTimes, Legal Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Progressive, Editor & Publisher and Free Inquiry. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker, and his writings was also published in: The New York Times, Jewish World Review, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Commonweal and Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo.

Hentoff was born on June 10, 1925, in a Jewish family in Boston, Massachusetts [2][3] the firstborn child of Simon, a traveling salesman, and Lena (née Katzenberg).[4][5] As a teen, he attended Boston Latin School[3][6] and worked for Frances Sweeney on the Boston City Reporter, investigating antisemitic hate groups. Sweeney was a major influence on Hentoff; his memoir, Boston Boy, is dedicated to her.[7][8] He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with highest honors, in 1946 from Northeastern University.[9][10][11] That same year he enrolled for graduate study at Harvard University.[9][11] In 1950, he attended Sorbonne University in Paris on a Fulbright Scholarship.[12]

Hentoff began his career in broadcast journalism while also hosting a weekly jazz program on WMEX, a Boston radio station.[13] In the 1940s, he hosted two radio shows on WMEX: JazzAlbum and From Bach To Bartók.[14] He continued to present a jazz program on WMEX into the early 1950s, and during that period was an announcer on the program Evolution of Jazz on WGBH-FM. By the late 1950s, he was co-hosting the program The Scope of Jazz on WBAI-FM in New York City.[15] He went on to write many books on jazz and politics.[3]

In 1952, Hentoff joined Down Beat magazine as a columnist,[16] and from 1953 through 1957, he was an associate editor.[9][17] He was fired in 1957 allegedly for trying to hire an African-American writer.[18][13]

Hentoff co-authored Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz by the Men Who Made It (1955) with Nat Shapiro.[3] The book features interviews with jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington.[14] Hentoff co-founded The Jazz Review in 1958,[3][14][19] a magazine that he co-edited with Martin Williams until 1961.[19] He also served as the A&R director of the short-lived jazz label Candid Records in 1960, which released albums by Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor and Max Roach, among others.[19][20]

Around the same time, Hentoff began freelance writing for publications like Esquire, Playboy, Harper’s, The New York Herald Tribune, Commonweal and The Reporter.[3] From 1958—2009, he wrote weekly columns on education, civil liberties, politics, and capital punishment, among other topics for the Village Voice.[3]

Hentoff wrote for many publications, including The New Yorker (1960—1986), The Washington Post (1984—2000), and The Washington Times.[3] He worked with the Jazz Foundation of America to help many American jazz and blues musicians in need.[14] He wrote many articles to draw attention to the plight of America's pioneering jazz and blues musicians, which were published in the Wall Street Journal[21] and the Village Voice.[22]

Beginning in February 2008, Hentoff was a weekly contributing columnist at WorldNetDaily.com.[23] In January 2009, the Village Voice, which had regularly published Hentoff's commentary and criticism for fifty years, announced that he had been laid off.[3][24] He then went on to write for publications such as United Features, Jewish World Review, and The Wall Street Journal.[3] Hentoff joined the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, as a senior fellow in February 2009.[25][17]

In 2013, a biographical film about Hentoff, entitled The Pleasures of Being Out of Step explored his career in jazz and as a First Amendment advocate. The independent documentary, produced and directed by David L. Lewis,[26] won the Grand Jury prize in the Metropolis competition at the DOC NYC festival[27] and played in theaters across the country.[3]

Hentoff was known as a civil libertarian, free speech activist,[28] anti-death penalty advocate and anti-abortion advocate.[6][17] He supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq,[24][6] and the State of Israel.[6] Hentoff espoused generally liberal views on domestic policy and civil liberties, but in the 1980s, he began articulating more socially conservative positions—opposition to abortion, voluntary euthanasia, and the selective medical treatment of severely disabled infants.[29] Hentoff argued that a consistent life ethic should be the viewpoint of a genuine civil libertarian, arguing that all human rights are at risk when the rights of any one group of people are diminished, that human rights are interconnected, and people deny others' human rights at their peril.[29]

While at one time a long-time supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hentoff became a vocal critic of the organization in 1999 for its advocacy of government-enforced university and workplace speech codes.[30] He served on the board of advisors for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, another civil liberties group.[31] Hentoff's book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee outlines his views on free speech and excoriates those whom he feels favor censorship in any form.[3]

Hentoff was critical of the Clinton Administration for the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.[32] He also criticized the Bush Administration for policies such as the Patriot Act and other civil liberties restrictions on the basis of homeland security. An ardent critic of the Bush administration's expansion of presidential power, in 2008 Hentoff called for the new president to deal with the "noxious residue of the Bush-Cheney war against terrorism". According to Hentoff, among the national security casualties have been "survivors, if they can be found, of CIA secret prisons ('black sites'); victims of CIA kidnapping renditions; and American citizens locked up indefinitely as 'unlawful enemy combatants'".[33] He advocated prosecuting members of the Bush administration, including lawyer John Yoo, for war crimes.[34]

Hentoff stated that while he had been prepared to enthusiastically support Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, his view changed after looking into Obama's voting record on abortion. During President Obama's first year, Hentoff praised him for ending policies of CIA renditions, but criticized him for failing to fully end George W. Bush's practice of state torture of prisoners.[35] In a May 2014 column, titled My Pro-Constitution Choice for President, Hentoff voiced his support for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's potential 2016 run for president. He cited Paul's support for civil liberties, particularly his stand against the indefinite detention clauses in the National Defense Authorization Act as well as his opposition to the Obama administration's use of drones against American citizens.[36] Hentoff later rescinded his endorsement of Paul in light of the senator's support for normalizing relations with Cuba and his failure to completely repeal the Patriot Act.[37]

Hentoff was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1972.[38] He won the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award in 1980 for his columns on law and criminal justice.[39] In 1983, he was awarded the American Library Association's Imroth Award for Intellectual Freedom.[39] In 1985, he received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the Northeastern University.[9][17] In 1995, he was honored with the National Press Foundation's Award in recognition of his lifetime distinguished contributions to journalism.[3][40][39] In 2004, Hentoff was named one of six NEA Jazz Masters by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, thus becoming the first nonmusician in history to win this award.[3] That same year, the Boston Latin School honored him as alumnus of the year.[41][42] In 2005, he was one of the first recipients of the Human Life Foundation's "Great Defender of Life" award.[43]

Hentoff grew up attending an Orthodox synagogue in Boston. He recalled that as a youth, he would travel around the city with his father during the High Holidays to listen to various cantors and compare notes on their performances. He said cantors made "sacred texts compellingly clear to the heart," and he collected their recordings.[44] In later life, Hentoff was an atheist,[45][28] and has sardonically described himself as "a member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists".[46][47] He expressed sympathy for Israel's Peace Now movement.[48]

Hentoff married three times, first to Miriam Sargent in 1950; the marriage was childless and the couple divorced that same year.[49] His second wife was Trudi Bernstein, whom he married on September 2, 1954, and with whom he had two children, Miranda and Jessica.[49] He divorced his second wife in August 1959.[49] On August 15, 1959, he married his third wife, Margot Goodman, with whom he had two children: Nicholas and Thomas.[49] The couple remained together until his death in 2017.[3]

He died of natural causes at his Manhattan apartment on January 7, 2017, at the age of 91.[6] Survivors include his wife, Margot Goodman; two sons, Nicholas and Thomas; two daughters, Miranda and Jessica; one of his stepdaughters, Mara Wolynski Nierman; a sister, Janet Krauss; and 10 grandchildren; Hugo Hentoff, Story Hentoff, Eliana Hentoff-Killian, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, Kellin Quinn, Ruby Hentoff, Caroline Nierman, Genevieve Nierman, Nina Steinberg Scherr, and Kate Steinberg.[3]


1. Hentoff, Nat (7 January 2009). "Nat Hentoff's Last Column: The 50-Year Veteran Says Goodbye". Village Voice. Retrieved 8 January 2017.

2. Swain, Carol (2003). Contemporary voices of white nationalism in America. Cambridge, UK New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-521-01693-3. Note: this quote is from the authors' introductory essay, not from the interviews.

3. McFadden, Robert D. (7 January 2017). "Nat Hentoff, Journalist and Social Commentator, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

4. Current Biography Yearbook. 47. H. W. Wilson Co. 1986. pp. 221–222. Nathan Irving Hentoff was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 10. 1925, the first-born child of Simon Hentoff, a haberdasher, and Lena [Katzenberg] Hentoff.

5. Polner, Murray (1982). American Jewish Biographies (illustrated ed.). Facts on File. p. 168. ISBN 9780871964625. Nathan Irving Hentoff was born in Boston to Simon, a traveling salesman, and Lena (Katzenberg) Hentoff.

6. "Nat Hentoff, journalist who wrote on jazz and civil liberties, dies at 91". The Washington Post. 
8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

7. Hentoff, Nat (2012). Boston Boy: Growing up with Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions. Paul Dry Books. ISBN 978-1-58988-258-4.

8. "Ask the Globe". The Boston Globe. July 30, 1998.

9. "Nat Hentoff". The Washington Post. 1998. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

10. Applegate, Edd (2009). Advocacy Journalists: A Biographical Dictionary of Writers and Editors. Scarecrow Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780810869288.

11. Drew, Bernard Alger (2002). 100 More Popular Young Adult Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies (illustrated ed.). Libraries Unlimited. p. 145. ISBN 9781563089206.

12. Finkelman, Paul (2013). Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties. Routledge. p. 760. ISBN 9781135947057.

13. "Nat Hentoff, Renowned Columnist and Jazz Critic, Dead at 91". Rolling Stone. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

14. "Liberty legend Nat Hentoff dies at 91". WND. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

15. New York Times, July 3, 1958, p. 49.

16. Down Beat, February 8, 1952, p. 1.

17. "America Under Barack Obama: An Interview with Nat Hentoff". The Rutherford Institute. 11 
December 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

18. "Nat Hentoff, columnist, critic and giant of jazz writing, dies aged 91". The Guardian. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

19. "Muere Nat Hentoff, histórico cronista del jazz". El Pais. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

20. Jarrett, Michael (2016). Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall. UNC Press Books. p. xxv. ISBN 978-

21. Hentoff, Nat (15 January 2009). "How Jazz Helped Hasten the Civil-Rights Movement". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 June 2017.

22. Hentoff, Nat (November 14, 2006). "Keeping Jazz Musicians Alive". Archived from the original on October 5, 2009.

23. "WorldNetDaily – A Free Press for a Free People". Wnd.com. Retrieved March 3, 2011.[permanent dead link]

24. "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves On From The Voice". The New York Times. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

25. "Nat Hentoff Joins the Cato Institute". Cato.org. February 4, 2009. Retrieved March 3, 2011.

26. Scheib, Ronnie (11 July 2014). "Film Review: ‘The Pleasures of Being Out of Step’". Variety. Retrieved 28 June 2017.

27. De Coster, Ramzi (21 November 2013). "‘A World Not Ours’ and ‘The Pleasures of Being Out of Step’ Take Home Grand Jury Prizes at DOC NYC". IndieWire. Retrieved 28 June 2017.

28. "Nat Hentoff, Memory Eternal". National Review. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

29. "Nat Hentoff on Abortion". Swissnet.ai.mit.edu. Retrieved March 3, 2011.

30. "ACLU better clean up its act". Jewishworldreview.com. September 20, 1999. Retrieved March 3, 2011.

31. Keene, David (9 January 2017). "A taste for authentic liberalism". The Washington Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017.

32. "Nat Hentoff Interview" (PDF). www.publicrecordmedia.org.

33. Nat Hentoff (November 12, 2008). "Caged Citizen Will Test President Obama". Village Voice. Archived from the original on October 14, 2010. Retrieved March 3, 2011.

34. Nat Hentoff (December 3, 2008). "Obama's First 100 Days". Village Voice. Archived from the original on November 13, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.

35. Nat Hentoff (January 12, 2010). "George W. Obama". Village Voice. Archived from the original on March 5, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.

36. Hentoff, Nat (20 May 2014). "My pro-Constitution choice for president". WorldNetDaily. Retrieved 28 June 2017.

37. Strom, Ron (28 June 2015). "Recovering Nat Hentoff sounds off on Rand Paul". WorldNetDaily. Retrieved 28 June 2017.

38. "List of Guggenheim Fellows". Guggenheim Fellowship. Retrieved March 3, 2011.

39. "Nat Hentoff". Cato Institute.

40. Nat Hentoff (January 7, 2009). ""Nat Hentoff's Last Column", Village Voice, January 6, 2009". Archived from the original on February 14, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.

41. "Awards & Recognition". Boston Latin School.

42. Hentoff, Nat (2010). At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene. University of California Press. p. 194. ISBN 9780520945883.

43. Pattison, Mark (12 January 2017). "Nat Hentoff was self-described pro-life Jewish atheist". Catholic Herald. Archived from the original on 29 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.

44. Nat Hentoff, "The Soul Music of the Synagogue," The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 1985.

45. Joyce, Robert W. (Fall 1999). "PLLDF Century Dinner" (PDF). The Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund Newsletter. Retrieved 3 March 2016.

46. "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves On from The Voice", New York Times, January 6, 2009.

47. Hentoff, Nat, John Cardinal O'Connor: at the Storm Center of a Changing American Catholic Church, p. 7 (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988)

48. "Nat Hentoff," in Murray Polner, American Jewish Biographies (New York: Facts on File, Inc., Lakeville Press, 1982), pp. 168–9.

49. Laurie Collier, Joyce Nakamura, eds. (1993). Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults: A Selection of Sketches from Something about the Author. 3. Gale Research. p. 1101. ISBN 978-0-8103-7384-6.

50. "Nat Hentoff, a jazz critic, free speech advocate, and 'Boston Boy' memoirist, dies at 91". Boston Globe. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

51. Hentoff, Nat (1987). American Heroes: In and Out of School. Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0-385-29565-9.

52. Hentoff, Nat (2004). The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance (illustrated, reprint ed.). Seven Stories Press. ISBN 978-1-58322-658-2.

53. Hentoff, Nat (2004). American Music is (reprint ed.). Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81351-1.

54. Hentoff, Nat (1968). Onwards!: a novel. Simon and Schuster.

55. Hentoff, Nat (1968). I'm really dragged but nothing gets me down. Simon & Schuster.

56. Hentoff, Nat (2001). The Nat Hentoff Reader. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81084-8.

57. Baldwin, James; Nat, Hentoff (1969). Black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism (reprint ed.). R. W. Baron.

58. Hentoff, Nat; McCarthy, Albert J. (1975). Jazz: New Perspectives on the History of Jazz by Twelve of the World's Foremost Jazz Critics and Scholars (illustrated, reprint ed.). Perseus Books Group. ISBN 978-0-306-80002-3.

Joe Williams

Joe Williams was an American jazz singer. He sang with big bands such as the Count Basie Orchestra and the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, and also with his own combos. He sang in two films with the Basie orchestra, and sometimes worked as an actor.

Williams was born in Cordele, Georgia, the son of Willie Goreed and Anne Beatrice née Gilbert. When he was about three, his mother and grandmother took him to Chicago. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where he attended Austin Otis Sexton Elementary School and Englewood High School. In the 1930s, as a teenager, he was a member of a gospel group, the Jubilee Boys, and performed in Chicago churches.

He worked as a singer and bouncer in Chicago in the late 1930s and early 1940s.[citation needed] He began singing professionally as a soloist in 1937. He sometimes sang with big bands: from 1937 he performed with Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra, and also toured with Les Hite in the Midwest. In 1941 he toured with Coleman Hawkins to Memphis, Tennessee. In 1943 he performed in Boston with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. He toured with Hampton for several years but never achieved breakthrough success.[citation needed] He sang with Red Saunders at the Club DeLisa in Chicago in 1945, and in 1946 was in New York with Andy Kirk.

In the late 1940s Williams was ill and performed little. By October 1950 he was again at the Club DeLisa with Red Saunders, where Count Basie heard him.

From 1954 to 1961 he was the singer for the Count Basie Orchestra. "Every Day I Have the Blues", recorded in 1955, and "Alright, Okay, You Win" were among many successful recordings from this period.

After leaving the Basie band, Williams had a successful career as a soloist at festivals, in clubs and on television. He and Basie remained on good terms and he regularly appeared with the Basie orchestra. He toured and made recordings with many other musicians, including Harry "Sweets" Edison in 1961–62, Junior Mance between 1962 and 1964, George Shearing in 1971, and Cannonball Adderley between 1973 and 1975. He went on a long tour from Egypt to India with Clark Terry in 1977, and toured Europe and the United States with Thad Jones and the Basie Orchestra in 1985. He also worked with his own combos, which between 1970 and 1990 usually included the pianist Norman Simmons, and often had Henry Johnson on guitar.

Williams sang with the Basie orchestra in two films, Jamboree in 1957 and Cinderfella in 1960. He sometimes worked as an actor, and in 1985 took the rôle of "Grandpa Al" Hanks in Bill Cosby's popular The Cosby Show. Williams appeared several times on Sesame Street in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In later life Williams often worked in hotels and clubs in Las Vegas, but also sang at festivals and worked on cruise ships. He toured again with the Basie Orchestra, this time under the direction of Frank Foster, who had succeeded Thad Jones as leader of the band. Williams sang with the former Ellington Orchestra drummer Louie Bellson in Duke Ellington's jazz suite Black, Brown and Beige; in about 1993 or 1994 he again toured with George Shearing.

Williams worked regularly until his death in Las Vegas on March 29, 1999, at the age of 80.