Roger Williams was born in Norfolk, VA and started singing with a group called the Quarter Notes whose wild R & B rocker “Punkanilla”, flipped with the novelty semi-instrumental “The Interview” came out on RCA via their manager Sherriff Tex Davis in 1958. Over time the group became the House Rockers and Williams got the name Sebastian from a promoter at a gig one night. They were a big draw in the Eastern part of the state and they came to the attention of Fred Weiss in Richmond who took them to Washington, DC for their first recording session.
While the upbeat dance craze “Nobody Can Do The Dog Like I Do” has it’s admirers – and to be fair it’s energy is infectious – the other side is a real peach. The Best Man Cryed has elements of doo wop in the structure and chord changes but Williams is all soul, tough and tender, while the band’s sound is reminiscent of Cookie’s Cupcakes with that twin sax lead. The studio owner Ted Pedas put the tracks out on his own Colt 45 label after the original Key single was issued.
Williams made several further 45, with or without the House Rockers, and a good few of them are really fine southern soul, but sadly he never made another ballad to match “Cryed”. The first of the releases was for that excellent Richmond man of music Mr Wiggles (August Moon), which certainly did feature the Rockers. The slinky “Too Much” features another fine gruff Williams vocal, and the sentiments of “Home Town Boy” is vaguely similar to Mr Wiggles own bluesy classic “Home Boy” on which Williams himself takes the bass voice part. Moon also cut a couple more tracks on the guys, but neither the mid paced “Here Today And Gone Tomorrow” nor the tasty beat ballad “Hey Little Girl” seem to have been issued as a 45.
The dance crowd have picked up on “Get Your Point Over” but the easy paced flip “I Don’t Care What Mama Said” seems to me to be a much better track, and features a far more comittied Williams vocal, despite a rather unnecessary break in the tempo for what sounds like an electric sitar solo. The terrific uptempo Memphis soul of Hayes and Porter’s The One You Can’t Have was produced by one of my great heroes C L Blast and no doubt Williams heard Blast singing it himself in the studio.
Williams’ final record was a hard hitting piece of social comment called “Living In Depression”, which was a vocal cut to Little Royal’s funk number “Razor Blade”. The designated A side is much more to my taste being a version of Freddie Fender’s swamp pop classic “Wasted Days”. But despite being issued on two further labels after the initial Pesante imprint, the 45 did not break into the charts.
Williams sadly passed on in May 2005.
As THE QUARTER NOTES
The interview / Punkanilla ~ RCA 7237 (1958)
As SEBASTIAN & THE HOUSE ROCKERS
Nobody can do the dog like I do / The best man cryed ~ KEY 302 / COLT 45 302 (1963)
As SEBASTIAN WILLIAMS
Too much / Home Town Boy ~ SOUND OF SOUL ~ 102
The one you can’t have / Shucks ~ COTILLION 44023 (1969)
Get you point over / I don’t care what Mama sadi (baby I need you) ~ OVIDE 249 (1969/70?)
Wasted days and wasted nights / Living in depression ~ PESANTE 112 / TRI-IT 200 / BROWN DOG 9008 (1975)
1. The Northern stomper “Soul Power” credited to Sebastian Williams isn’t the same artist – his voice range is much higher.
2. You can find “Here Today And Gone Tomorrow” and “Too Much” on Mr Wiggles’ CD “22 Soul Hits” on Sound Of Soul, and
3. Both “Nobody Can Do The Dog Like I Do” and “The Best Man Cryed” are on the Arcania CD “Ol Virginia Soul Vol 1”. “Living In Depression” is on the same company’s “Ol Virginia Soul Encore” CD. I got a lot of the info on Sebastian Williams from the notes of these two CDs but als always the musical opinions are my own. Buy all the Arcania CDs in their Ol Virginia series – they are produced by some good guys.