- Category: News
02 Jun 2011
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
Special to the Tri-State Defender
Talk to just about anyone who has visited Beale Street and they have encountered the legendary trumpeter, Rudolph “Rudy” Williams, widely known as the “mayor of Beale Street.”
Late Wednesday, the Memphis Police Department officially identified a badly decomposed body found late Tuesday night in the woods behind the Value Place Motel at 1218 Winchester as the remains of Williams, who was reported missing over ten days ago by his daughter, Meagan. Williams wife, Marva, had said her husband, 70, went missing on May 21 after having last been seen walking West on Winchester near his home in Whitehaven about 9 p.m.
|Rudy Williams (Photo by Shirley Jackson)|
Williams was the iconic and unofficial spokesperson for Beale Street and Memphis music said his longtime friend and Booker T. Washington High School alum and school band member, Alfred Brown, D.D.S.
“Rudolph’s special gift to the city and to people who loved great music was his trumpet – that was rich, powerful and entertaining.”
Brown, a jazz keyboardist who also “plays music and makes albums” online at Sounds of Alfred, spoke proudly of the memories and accomplishments of a group of his high school friends, including Williams, whom he affectionately calls Rudolph.
In addition to Williams, the four other 1960 BTW grads and band members are six-time Grammy winner, Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire; 11-time Grammy winner, Booker T. Jones of Booker T & The MG’s; Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns, who has performed on 49 Number One records, 112 Top Ten records, 83 Gold & Platinum records, plus a 15 time Grammy winner; and bass player Melvin Shaw. All “felt the BTW spirit as true Washingtonians…they lead and others follow,” Brown said of his BTW combo-band members.
“We were young people who had a little talent and went on to prove it,” he said. “These luminaries were my friends, band members and classmates. They were not famous to us; they just used their gifts to make music.”
Williams’ wife, Marva, is also a BTW graduate. They have been together since high school, said Brown.
Funeral arrangements for Williams still were pending at the Tri-State Defender’s press deadline, and none of his family members had been reached for comments.
Carson Lamm of River City Management Group and the Beale Street Merchants Association said he would be the point of contact for an upcoming New Orleans style processional in honor of “Rudy…our Ambassador for Beale and Memphis music.”
Lamm said, “We will work with the family and wait on them for instructions, as to ease the pain and suffering they are currently experiencing” before making any announcements on date and time of the Beale Street processional.”
Then he noted a bit of irony.
“In the past, Rudy has always been the one leading the processional and now we have to plan one for him.”
Late Wednesday evening, Lamm said calls were coming in from all over the country from people wanting to know how they can help to honor the life and legacy of Williams.
Brown said Williams came up with the idea to promote himself as the “mayor of Beale Street” because he wanted the world to know the great trumpeter and “Father of the Blues,” W.C. Handy.
“Rudy injected himself in that picture so others could see what trumpet music could be like,” said Brown.
“He was music transcended. He is truly the icon of Beale Street and Memphis music. All musicians that knew him respected him highly, and he gave tourists, and all who would listen, the history of music and Memphis sounds.”