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Swamp Dogg

Swamp Dogg

Jerry Williams, Jr. (born July 12, 1942), often credited under his pseudonym Swamp Dogg, is an American soul and R&B singer, musician, songwriter and record producer. After recording as Little Jerry and Little Jerry Williams in the 1950s and 1960s, he reinvented himself as Swamp Dogg, releasing a series of satirical and profane recordings, as well as continuing to write and produce for other musicians. He is described at Allmusic as "one of the great cult figures of 20th century American music."

Williams was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. He made his first recording, "HTD Blues (Hardsick Troublesome Downout Blues)", for the Mechanic record label in 1954, when he was aged 12. From 1960, he released occasional singles for a variety of labels, including the self-written "I'm The Lover Man" in 1964, which was first issued on the Southern Sound label and was then picked up by the larger Loma label, almost breaking into the national Hot 100. He also wrote successfully for other musicians, including "Big Party" for Barbara and the Browns.

As Little Jerry Williams, he had his first national chart success in 1966, when "Baby You're My Everything", which he co-wrote and produced, was released on the Calla label and rose to #32 on the R&B chart, again just missing the Hot 100. He released several more singles on Calla through to 1967, by now credited simply as Jerry Williams, but with little commercial success, although some of his records such as "If You Ask Me (Because I Love You)" later became staples of the Northern Soul movement in the UK.

By late 1967 he started working in A&R and other duties for the Musicor label in New York. In 1968 he co-wrote, with Charlie Foxx, Gene Pitney's up-tempo hit, "She's a Heartbreaker", which Williams also claimed to have produced, saying: "I produced the motherfuck out of it... [and] Charlie Foxx put me down on the label as “vocal arranger.” What the fuck is that? When they took out full-page ads in Billboard and Cashbox, there was a picture of Charlie on one side and a picture of Gene Pitney on the other and no mention of me.”

Swamp Dogg

Later in 1968 Williams began working as a producer at Atlantic Records with Jerry Wexler and Phil Walden. He also established a songwriting partnership with Gary Anderson, who performed as Gary U.S. Bonds, and the pair wrote the R&B chart hits "To the Other Woman (I'm the Other Woman)" by Doris Duke, and "She Didn't Know (She Kept on Talking)" by Dee Dee Warwick. He also recorded a single, "I Got What It Takes", in a duo with Brooks O'Dell, and released two singles under his own name on the Cotillion label, a subsidiary of Atlantic.

In 1970 he emerged in his new Swamp Dogg persona, with two singles on the Canyon label, "Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe", again co-written with Bonds, and "Synthetic World". He also produced the first Swamp Dogg album, Total Destruction to Your Mind. The album sleeve showed Williams sitting in his underwear on a pile of garbage. Williams' new direction apparently followed an LSD trip, and was inspired by the radical politics of the time and by Frank Zappa's use of satire, while showing his own expertise in, and commitment to, deep soul and R&B music. According to Allmusic: "In sheer musical terms, Swamp Dogg is pure Southern soul, anchored on tight grooves and accentuated by horns, but the Dogg is as much about message as music..." Although not a commercial success at the time, Swamp Dogg started to develop a cult following and eventually the album sold enough to achieve gold record status. It was reissued in 2013 by Alive Naturalsound Records.

Around the same time, one of the songs Williams had co-written with Gary Bonds, "She's All I Got", became a top ten R&B hit for Freddie North, and was recorded with even greater success by country star Johnny Paycheck, whose version reached #2 on the country music chart in late 1971. In a later interview on NPR's Studio 360, Williams stated he was raised on country music: "Black music didn't start 'til 10 at night until 4 in the morning and I was in bed by then... If you strip my tracks, take away all the horns and guitar licks, what you have is a country song." However, he also continued to write and produce deep soul songs for other musicians, including Z. Z. Hill and Irma Thomas.

Swamp Dogg's Rat On!

As Swamp Dogg, he was signed by Elektra Records for his second album, Rat On! in 1971. The sleeve showed him on the back of a giant white rat, and has been ranked as one of the worst album covers of all time. Sales were relatively poor, and his next albums Cuffed, Collared and Tagged (1972) and Gag a Maggott (recorded at the TK Studio in 1973) were released on smaller labels, though his 1974 album, Have You Heard This Story??, was issued by Island Records. In 1977 he had another minor R&B hit with "My Heart Just Can't Stop Dancing", credited to Swamp Dogg & the Riders of the New Funk. He continued to release albums through the 1970s and into the mid-1980s as Swamp Dogg, on various small independent labels and in a variety of styles including disco and country, and maintained a healthy cult following. He also set up his own publishing and recording company, Swamp Dogg Entertainment Group (SDEG).

In 1999, Total Destruction to Your Mind was sampled by Kid Rock on the track "I Got One for Ya", sparking a revival of interest in Swamp Dogg, who began performing live gigs for the first time. Several other of his recordings were sampled, and in 2009 he released two new albums, Give Em as Little as You Can...As Often as You Have To...Or...A Tribute to Rock N Roll, and An Awful Christmas and a Lousy New Year. He also released some further singles, and a compilation album of the best of his work as both Little Jerry Williams and Swamp Dogg, It's All Good, was released in 2009. Most of his early Swamp Dogg albums have also been reissued on CD.

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