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Profile:

Marion Williams (Marie Power)

 

Marion Williams

 

Sadly passing through the Departure Lounge in February 2014 was singer Marion Williams whose real name was Marie Power. In 2012, David Van De Gevel wrote to us from Greece asking if anyone could help with information about Marion who once sang with John Dankworth.

David said: 'Marion Williams, was a singer in the '50s with Johnny Dankworth before being supplanted by Cleo Laine. She went on to sing with the Oscar Rabin Band. The only occasion I heard her sing Marion Williams was back in the mid-70s at a small pub, The Anchor, run by ex-flautist, Rod Marshall, in the Yorkshire town of Brighouse. We had a regular Thursday-night jazz session in an upstairs room with the resident pianist being the consummate Eddie Thomson. One evening he introduced Marion as making a comeback. She was a beautiful, statuesque lady with a voice to match and blew the audience away. Beyond that, I can find no trace of her on the net, no recordings, no resume, except this early photo of her. What happened to her? What was her background? Any information would be greatly appreciated.'

Marion / Marie's friends Cathy Pound and Ben Wallis, and her son, Paul, have been in contact to let us know that Marion passed away on the 13th February at the Royal Free cardiac care unit in Hampstead, London.

Marion Williams was born in London in1930 to an Irish mother and Nigerian father. She already had a high profile as a singer by the time she was eighteen, and in her twenties was singing with Johnny Dankworth’s band.

Paul, her son, says: 'As far as I know, she had worked with the Geraldo and Denny Boyce dance bands and was a regular singer at The Lyceum Ballroom in London. She also worked with Stephane Grappelli and Johnny Dankworth prior to Cleo Laine and was also resident singer at Ronnie Scott's with the house band. Musicians included bass players Ron Mathewson, Peter Ind and Dave Green, drummers Martin Drew and Brian Spring. The band also included Kenny Wheeler, trumpet, Louis Stewart, guitar, pianist Pat Smythe and possibly John Critchenson and John Taylor. If memory serves, Ronnie, Pete King and Don Weller sat in'.

As far as we can see, Marion recorded Sam's Song with Johnny Dankworth on an Esquire (E) 5-005 record made in July 1950 with Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet) Eddie Harvey (trombone) Johnny Dankworth (alto saxophone) Don Rendell (tenor saxophone) Bill LeSage (piano) Eric Dawson (bass) and Tony Kinsey (drums), but we have not been able to find a copy of this online.

Paul continues: 'During her period at Ronnie's I also saw her sit in with Dexter Gordon, the Stan Getz band and Cedar Walton. Marie also did live radio sessions with the BBC Radio Orchestra usually broadcast on Radio 2, and did one TV broadcast for a jazz program on BBC 2, I think with trombonist George Chisholm and tenor saxophonist Kathy Stobart, with whom she had known and worked with for many years. She was a firm favorite at Ronnie's and made friends with many of the visiting American players including Al Jarrau and Dizzy Gillespie! Both vocalist Norma Winstone and writer Fran's Landsman were good friends'.

Cathy Pound adds: 'I believe along with other bands she reverted to her maiden or married name later in life when we knew her in Camden. She left the scene I think younger than she needed to and worked with Virgin finance department until her retirement'.

 

Eddie Sammons in Spain writes:

Marion was indeed a very beautiful woman with a great voice. She sang with a variety of bands including Vic Lewis and Oscar Rabin. I know of her when she was with the Eric Delaney Band and also with his small group which he started in 1959. I spoke to her some years ago when I was compiling the book The Magnificent Eric Delaney (still available - click here). I remember Sheila Southern telling me that she had to take over from Marion in the Delaney Band and said “She (Marion) was wonderful!” and a very tough act to follow! Marion was briefly married to Derrick Francis (male singer with Delaney in the mid-1950s). They had a son, Paul, who is, I believe , a musician.

Marion made at least one record with Vic Lewis and may have recorded with Dankworth. She never recorded with the Delaney Band which is a great shame and  I think that may have been for contractual reasons or simply that Eric did not let any of his singers perform on his recording with the only exception being Gene Williams. Luckily, when sorting through Eric’s bits and pieces, I found a number of Brian Auger Rhythms CDtapes of his band and Marion is featured  on some of the broadcasts. All have been transferred to CDs for my private pleasure.

When a local radio station here in Spain – TRE – did an hour tribute to the late Sir George Shearing, I was able to send a copy of Marion singing Lullaby of Birdland for inclusion. Apart from the obvious, it was relevant as the Delaney Band accompanied Marion. Eric and George were lifelong friends since they played together in the Ambrose Octet (1940/41).

Marion recorded Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell for Columbia. She appears on a 1961 set with  a group featuring Brian Auger (he of Trinity fame with Julie Driscoll). She sings East Of The Sun  and the Sarah Vaughan influence shows (they were apparently good friends) - [click here to sample the album and Marion singing East Of the Sun]. Brian, who now lives in America, included the session on a double CD he issued. He generously sent Marion Williams Sings Johnny Hawksworth Playsme a copy. He describes Marion as being of the cool school of jazz noting that she was a frequent broadcaster and regularly appeared  at Ronnie Scott’s.

Marion made at least one single for Decca (The Lonely One/I’ve Fallen Out Of Love) issued in 1962. Marion also cut a number of tracks for Woolworth’s Embassy label which did budget-priced cover versions of mainly, but not exclusively, pop music. The tracks I have traced and have are: Little Miss Lonely, Vacation, The Locomotion, Let’s Talk About Love and Opposites. I have heard that she made some discs for the Warner label but I have not been able to trace them.

So my last disc date I have for her is a DeWolf LP Marion Williams Sings, Johnny Hawksworth Plays. It features seven compositions by the former Ted Heath bass player which he plays with a small group; Marion sings the vocal versions of the same tunes.
2016.9           

 

Eddie has shared more pictures from his Eric Delaney book collection of material:

Marion Williams with the Eric Delaney band

 

Marion had been singing with Vic Lewis's band until on June 1st 1952, she joined Oscar Rabin's band when Marjery Daw went on a working holiday to her native South Africa.

In December 1954, Marion started singing with Eric Delaney's band. The Melody Maker reported that she would continue broadcasting with the Rabin band until the end of the year.

The booking with Delaney was as a result of the prolonged illness of Eric's singer, Dawn Page, who had been suffering with glandular problems since two weeks after the debut of the Delaney band that September. Melody Maker said that Marion 'who is 24, first sang with Leslie 'Jiver' Marion Williams with Eric DelaneyHutchinson's band seven years ago. She has worked for Stephane Grappell(y), Paul Fenoulhet, Johnny Dankworth, Vic Lewis, Don Smith and Oscar Rabin'.

 

For the picture on the right, Eddie Sammons says: 'I place this as 1955 as both Albert Hall and Bert Courtley are in the trumpet section of the band. Jimmy Skidmore is unmistakable on tenor sax and Derrick Eric Delaney posterFrancis is singing.'

 

By August 1959, times had changed for Eric Delaney's band and this time the Melody Maker reported that 'Drummer-leader Etic Delaney is through with pops. "They ruined my other band," said Eric when he made an introductory appearance with his new seven-piece at Brighton's Regent Ballroom. "We shall specialise in jazz, plenty of ad lib stuff. There's so much freedom in it."

'Eric opened with his re-formed group at Ramstein USAF Base last week for two months. While in Germany the group will appear on radio and television. The line-up is Colin Bradfield (alto),Tony Fisher (tpt), Kenny Salmon (organ), Tony White (gtr), Peter Houchin (bass) and Gene Williams (vcl). Singer Sheila Southern has gone to Germany with Eric as featured soloist, but when the band returns, Marion Williams will rejoin, after spells with Oscar Rabin and Don Smith.'

Eddie adds: 'I’ve heard from Gene Williams, singer with the Eric Delaney late 50s /early 60s when he succeeded Cab Kaye, and thus a contemporary of Marion’s.  He writes: "She was a very private and introverted person but the Best singer I knew in Britain at the time. We always sang those Duos of Sarah Vaughn and Billy Eckstein together.” Gene, now in his eighties, has retired after a long singing career.'
2016.12

Eddie Sammons also found information on Kathy Stobart's website that tells us that Marion sang with Kathy's band between 1978-92 '... the Kathy Stobart Quintet originally featuring Harry Beckett (trumpet); Fiachra Trench (keyboards); Dave Olney (bass); Tony Mann (drums), later on including Lenny Best (vibraphone); Johnny Burch (piano); and Harvey Weston (bass). Guest vocalists included Elizabeth Welch and Marian Williams. Appeared at the Nice Jazz Festival for the first time.'
2016.12

We hope to find more information about Marion, so please contact us if you can add anything. 'Our' Marion Williams should not be confused with the American Gospel singer of the same name.

Marie’s funeral took place on Thursday, 13th March at 3.00 p.m. at Golders Green Crematorium, Hoop Lane, London, NW11 7NL, and afterwards at The Cobden, Camden High Street (near Mornington Crescent).

 

Esquire Vic Lewis recording

 

 

Harry Haecker in New Zealand has been reading our Profile of singer Marion Williams and writes: 'I have a copy of Esquire 10-124. One side of this 78 features Marion Williams scatting with Vic Lewis on Lemon Drop.  Her scatting on this recording is joyous! Here is the listing on Discogs which I uploaded today (click here)'.

The recording is from February 1951 and has Solitaire on the A-side.
2017.5

 

 

 

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