Warner Williams has been plying his musical wares in and around the Maryland-Washington, D.C. area for the past sixtyfive years. Over the last two decades he has partnered with harmonica player and percussionist Jay Summerour. They have established themselves as master musicians equally at home on the festival circuit or at a friend’s fish fry.
Drawing on an endless repertory of blues, county, jazz, pop, gospel, rock, and even old-time classics, Williams imprints each piece with his own style, the mark of a true songster. Over the course of his life he’s picked up lots of songs and as long as it’s good music, he doesn’t discriminate between genres. He grew up in a profoundly musical family, performing as a youngster at home, church, and on the streets. When he was old enough, he played in jooks and taverns, at times working with various bands. But for the most part, music has been a pleasure and a hobby secondary to a day job and raising his own musical family. Recently retired from the Montgomery County Park and Planning Commission, he can now dedicate more time to playing and expanding his musical reputation.
Three generations of family-based music provide context for his superb musicianship. His skills and musical choices provide a unique blend of rural and urban and black and white traditions. He admits a preference for older songs that date back as far as the country breakdown
his father once played, but most stem from blues, jazz, country, pop, and rhythm and blues of the late 1940’s and 1950’s. A musician’s musician, his playing and singing appear so effortless that it takes a moment or two to realize just how good he is. With his outsized cowboy hat, boots, jeans and shades, he’s hard to miss; and when he starts to play, whether it’s Blind Boy Fuller, Fats Waller, or Fats Domino, he’s impossible to ignore. Together with Jay Summerour, they are outstanding examples of the East Coast guitar/harmonica duet tradition, and their music reminds us that there are more blues highways than the Delta’s 61 or 49.