Little Willie John

About Little Willie John

Possessing a mighty, soulful tenor that belied his diminutive stature, Little Willie John defined the gospel-infused sound that was to emerge in soul music in the ‘50s and beyond. Recording for the King label in 1955, John, then aged just 17, began his remarkable run of hits with a version of Titus Turner’s “All Around the World.” Despite consistently topping the R&B charts, his signature tune, 1956’s smoldering “Fever,” was more famously associated with Peggy Lee, who covered the song in 1958. By the ‘60s, John’s career began to falter due to mounting personal problems stemming from alcohol abuse and a famously volatile temper. In 1964, John was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to the Washington State penitentiary where, in 1968, he died of heart failure. Little Willie John was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

  • HOMETOWN
    Cullendale, AR
  • BORN
    November 15, 1937

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