January 25, 1983 – Lamar Williams born on January 14th 1949 in Newton, Mississippi. From an early age he was immersed in music, courtesy of his father-who was a gospel singer in a group called the Deep South-and an uncle in Michigan who liked jazz.
“What really got me into music,” he recalled at one time, “was a trip I made once to visit my uncle. He was a jazz head, and used to listen to just about everything. He had a little plastic flute, and I remember one day I picked it up and tried to play along with some records. After a while, I got to where I was doing it, and liking it.”
A self taught musician, Williams remembered some of the problems he confronted when first attempting to master the bass.
“I was the kid on the block who was always humming bass lines,” he says. “I just like what the bass player was doing. Eventually, I got inspired enough from what I was hearing to actually try and play a bass guitar. The first thing I attempted to get down was the basic little pattern that most bass players know-a 12-bar blues change. I just did it by trial-and-error–didn’t use any books or anything.
But at first, I tried to do it all on one string. I soon found out that wasn’t the way to go; I mean, it tires you out, you know. So after a while I started playing with my father’s group and with some other small blues and R&B bands around town, and I learned that G is here, and C is there, and E b is here and also down here-things like that.”
When Lamar was 14, he acquired a Kingston bass and began playing with the Deep South-sharing a small Fender amplifier with the group’s guitar player. Musical influences other than gospel also began filtering into the young musician’s ears, including Marvin Gaye, the Impressions, the Beatles, Paul Revere And The Raiders, and just about everything from Mowtown. “Ever since I was 13, I just wanted to be a musician,” Lamar said in an interview. “I liked different types of music, and my goal was to be able to play whatever style of music I liked.” Some of Lamar’s favorite bassists include James Jamerson, Monk Montgomery, Richard Davis and Stanley Clarke.
Between 1965 and 1967, Williams worked in a band called the Sounds Of Soul, which played regularly in clubs all along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. With this group he played his Kingston and a Japanese-made Panomatic bass. Then, in 1968, Lamar entered the army and landed a gig in a Special Forces band. “We would put together shows for guys in basic training, for N.C.O. [non-commissioned officer] clubs, and we’d do things around town, too,” he said. “The interesting thing about all this was we did everything from ragtime to country and western music. I think it’s important to have perspectives on different types of music and not let yourself get into a rut by playing only one style. I like to keep track of all of it.”
After leaving the service in 1970, Williams played in the Fungus Blues Band when he went to Macon, Georgia, to visit his longtime friend, Jai Johanny Johnson. Jamie and Lamar played in many of the early groups before going into the army. A series of stints with local bands followed, and one day Lamar received a call from Jaimoe-who had by then joined the Allman Brothers Band. Johanson asked him if he wanted to audition as the group’s new bassist. Lamar said yes, so in 1972 he teamed up with the Brothers and helped record three albums with them: Brothers & Sisters, Win, Lose, Or Draw, and the live double-LP Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas.
During his tenure with the Allman Brothers, Lamar became friends with keyboardist Chuck Leavell; and he, Leavell and Johanson put together a trio called We Three. By this time, Lamar was using an Alembic bass. “We used to play stuff in the dressing room to loosen up,” he says, “and we also found ourselves playing songs-making songs. When the Brothers broke up in the late-’70s, we formed Sea Level with Level and Johanson.”
William’s Alembic was stolen in 1977, and he replaced it with a new Fender Precision. He was also known to have an early-’60s Hagstrom 8-string bass, an Ampeg electric upright, a late-’60s fretless Precision, a full-size German-made acoustic, and an early-’70s Gibson Grabber bass.
While many bassists were edging further out front as lead musicians, Williams was content with keeping a low profile: “During my Allman days, Chuck Leavell and I used to play a lot together-improving on chords that the other guys were laying down.”
After the Allmans dissolved in 1976, Williams founded Sea Level with Jaimoe and Chuck Leavell. In Sea Level he played in a looser, more jazz-like fashion. Williams left Sea Level in 1980, shortly before that band broke up
Lamar Williams sadly lost his battle with cancer at age 34 on January 25, 1983.