The story of Robert Pete Williams should strike fear in the heart of anyone who cares about our nation’s musical heritage. Any representative record of his irreplaceable talent was almost lost. Unknown outside central Louisiana, Williams was discovered in 1959 by Dr. Harry Oster while serving a life term in prison. Williams had been unable to convince a white court that he acted in self-defense when he killed a man during a fight.
Oster recorded the bluesman there at Angola State Penitentiary. In the background on the resulting CD, “I’m Blue as a Man Can Be,” you can hear an accompaniment of bird songs and the lonesome howl of a train whistle carried to the microphone by a Southern breeze. It’s somewhat eerie considering how Williams described his inspiration at age 28 to change his music style: “The sound of the atmosphere; the weather changed my style. But I could hear, since being an air-music man. The air came in different, with a different sound of music. Well, the atmosphere, when the wind is blowing, carries music along.” Read more >