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This Day in Georgia History

December 12, 1912

Joe Williams Born

Renown jazz and blues vocalist Joe Williams was born in Cordele, Georgia as Joseph Goreed. After his father left, his mother moved to Chicago to find work to support her family. At age four, Goreed and his grandmother and aunt moved to Chicago to join his mother. Here, he experienced the excitement of Chicago’s black music scene, which led him to learn to sing and play the piano. By his teens, he was performing as solo vocalist with local bands - a fact that led him to drop out of school and to adopt the stage name of Joe Williams. During the 1930s, he performed with various bands - but his first big break came in 1942, when Lionel Hampton hired him. Later, with the Count Basie Band, Williams developed into one of this country’s greatest male jazz vocalists.