Hello, Little Willie John was born William Edward John on November 15, 1937 in Cullendale, Arkansas. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1941. He was signed to a recording contract with King Records in 1955.
His first hit recording for King Records was in 19555, ALL AROUND THE WORLD a Titus Turner hit, became Little Willie John’s first hit, charting at #5 on the R&B chart. His next hit was also an R&B smash, NEED YOUR LOVE SO BAD charted at #5 and the “B” side of his hit record also charted, in the R&B Top 10, HOME AT LAST reached #6 giving him a double-sided Top 10 hit.
On July 7, 1956 Little Willie John charted his first Billboard Top 100 pop hit. His version of FEVER became a #24 hit and remained on the Top 100 for 15 weeks. It also became a #1 R&B hit for him, staying at #1 for 5 weeks and remaining on the R&B chart for 23 weeks. The record sold over 1 million copies and was awarded a “Gold Record”. The “B” side LETTER FROM MY DARLING also was a Top 10 R&B hit, charting at #10.
His next Billboard Top 100 hit would come in 1958, his classic recording of TALK TO ME, TALK TO ME would chart at #20 and remain on the Top 100 for 17 weeks. It would be a Top 10 hit on the Billboard R&B chart, at #5 and the single would sell over a million copies, earning him another “Gold Record”.
His hits would continue on the R&B chart, all Top 20 hits. In June of 1960 he would have a #6 R&B hit with, HEARTBREAK (IT’S HURTIN’ ME). In September of 1960 he would chart his biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit with SLEEP, it would chart at #13. It would peak at #10 on the R&B chart. Little Willie John’s last R&B Top 10 hit charted in 1961. It would also be his last R&B hit record, TAKE MY LOVE (I WANT TO GIVE IT ALL TO YOU) charted at #5.
He was dropped by his record label, King Records in 1963. In 1966 he was convicted of manslaughter and was sent to Washington State Penitentiary. He died in 1968 at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington of a heart attack. Little Willie John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.