Sunday, February 13, 2011


Sweet looking Little Willie John (5 ft tall) was actually known for his short temper, drinking problems and would end up on a manslaughter conviction after a fatal knifing at a Seattle show in the mid60s. He served two years in Walla Walla at the Washington State Penitentiary where he died at age 30 of a heart attack. To this day it's in dispute just how the great one died. While on appeal in 1966 for the conviction, and momentarily out of prison, John recorded his last album Nineteen Sixty-Six which wasn't released until 2008. One more Bermuda Triangle moment in the music industry. Forty years didn't dim a thing ~ the album is pure gold. Born in Arkansas and raised in the Motor City on auto culture and gospel, Little Willie John cut his first record for the King label in 1955. Peggy Lee made his song "Fever" even more famous in 1958. James Brown would open shows for Little Willie John, known to his mother as William Edward John.



You were standing on the quay

Wondering who was the stranger on the mailboat

While I was on the mailboat

Wondering who was the stranger on the quay


I lean on a lighthouse rock
Where the seagowns flow,
A trawler slips from the dock
Sailing years ago.

Wine, tobacco and seamen
Cloud the green air,
A head of snakes in the rain
Talks away desire.

A sailor kisses me
Tasting of mackerel,
I analyse misery
Till mass bells peal.

I wait for clogs on the cobbles
Dead feet at night,
Only a tempest blows
Darkness on sealight.

I've argued myself here
To the blue cliff-tops:
I'll drop through the sea-air
Till everything stops.


from High Island
Richard Murphy
New and Selected poems
Harper & Row 1974

mailboat :
photo © bob arnold