Lost Treasures: Little Willie John – “Fever”


William Edward John was born in Arkansas & grew up in Detroit.  Singing in a gospel group as a teen in the late 1940’s, he came to the attention of R&B performers Johnny Otis & Henry Glover.  Glover signed him to King Records & he acquired the nickname ‘Little Willie’ due to his short stature.  He began having hits in the early to mid-50’s & his most famous recording is this week’s Lost Treasure.  In 1956, King released “Fever” which sold over one million copies & was awarded a gold disc.  The song gained even more fame via Peggy Lee’s 1958 cover version.  Other Willie John records covered included “Need Your Love So Bad” by the early Fleetwood Mac Blues Band & “Leave My Kitten Alone” by The Beatles.  Willie John had a short temper & abused alcohol making for a lethal combination.  After the hits dried up in the early 60’s, King Records dropped him in 1965.  In 1966, he was convicted of manslaughter after a show in Seattle,  & was sent to the State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He appealed the conviction and was released while the case was reconsidered, during which time he recorded what was intended to be his comeback album. Owing to contractual disputes and the decline of his appeal, it was not released until 2008 (as Nineteen Sixty Six).  Little Willie John died in 1968 at Washington State Penitentiary of a heart attack. Stay warm & keep working on those leftovers as we embark on the extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend!

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Mike Cherry

Author: Mike Cherry

retired broadcaster: on-air, MD, PD, asst PD, Prod Mgr, IT, station technician/engineer, pioneer Internet webcaster, station installation/maintenance; 12 years in commercial radio, 17 years volunteer in campus/community radio in B.C., Alberta & Wash. Amateur radio operator & "DXer" specializing in AM night-time DX, short-wave DX/listening & remote SDR DXing/listening

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