Marriages: the successful workings of two business partners; two athletes involved in a sporting event, and other instances in which two individuals are teamed and work successfully, are often described as unions made in heaven.
The teaming of bandleader Count Basie and singer Joe Williams earned such a tag when Williams joined the band in the mid 1950s. The era of the big bands had seen its best days, and only a few were still able to hang on - the Basie Band was one of them. But its popularity, too, was waning, as rhythm and blues, modern jazz, and male and female singers sold the phonograph records and ruled the radio airwaves.
The addition of Williams to the Basie Band was rejuvenating! The first shot of B-12 was the band's recording of "Everyday I Have the Blues," released in 1955.
Williams had been singing many years without much recognition. But the blending of his flexible baritone, with the Basie Band's always great arrangement, resulted in a grand symbiosis that lasted almost seven years. The band rose to the top of the charts again, and Williams, whose beginning salary with the Count was said to be $75 a week, was later paid the princely sum of $750 a week - a king's ransom at the time.
This auspicious union took place on Christmas Day, 1954, when Williams officially joined the band. What an Xmas present for Williams-Basie...and what a gift for music lovers.
If you've never heard the Basie Band and Williams carry on, or have forgotten how good their paring sounded, try Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings, on the verve label.--BP