Jerry Williams Jr is one of the great cult figures of 20th century American music – better known by his eventual stage name Swamp Dogg.
Born in Portsmouth, Virginia. He made his first recording, HTD Blues (Hardsick Troublesome Downout Blues) in 1954, when he was aged 12, with his parents and uncle and backing musicians.
After recording as Little Jerry and Little Jerry Williams in the 1950s and 1960s, he reinvented himself in the 1970s as Swamp Dogg, supposedly after an acid trip.
“I became Swamp Dogg in 1970 in order to have an alter-ego and someone to occupy the body while the search party was out looking for Jerry Williams, who was mentally missing in action due to certain pressures, mal-treatments and failure to get paid royalties on over fifty single records,” he later explained.
“I couldn’t dance as good as Joe Tex, wasn’t pretty like Tommy Hunt, couldn’t compare vocally to Jackie Wilson and I didn’t have the sex appeal of Daffy Duck. I wanted to sing about everything and anything and not be pigeonholed by the industry.
“So I came up with the name Dogg because a dog can do anything, and anything a dog does never comes as a real surprise; if he sleeps on the sofa, shits on the rug, pisses on the drapes, chews up your slippers, humps your mother-in-law’s leg, jumps on your new clothes and licks your face, he’s never gotten out of character.
“You understand what he did, you curse while making allowances for him but your love for him never diminishes.
“Commencing in 1970, I sung about sex, niggers, love, rednecks, war, peace, dead flies, home wreckers, Sly Stone, my daughters, politics, revolution and blood transfusions (just to name a few), and never got out of character.”
He’s a real multitasker, mixing his own eccentric recordings – mostly at Muscle Shoals in Alabama – with writing and producing for other musicians – and played a key role in the rise to fame of Dr Dre in the 1980s.