About the Artist
In 1967, Willie King moved to Chicago in an attempt to make more money than he could down South. After a year spent on the West and South Side, he returned to Old Memphis, Alabama, just across the border from the Mississippi Prairie. A salesman - of shoes, cologne, and other frivolities - Willie traveled the rural roads hawking goods and talking politics. Choosing not to work under the "old system" of unequal treatment, King joined the civil rights movement near the end of the decade, eventually associating with the left-wing Highlander Center.
By the late 1970s, King was writing what he calls "struggling songs" - political blues tunes that he used to educate his audiences. As King explains "through the music I could reach more people, get em to listen." Yet as his rollicking blues style attests, King still knows how to have a good time. He played the juke circuit and bootlegged whiskey on the side, resorting to popular blues covers when the "struggling songs" upset a close-minded audience.
King work a lot in his own community, forging relationships with local youth through a blues education program and through his organization The Rural Members Association. The Rural Members Association has sponsored classes in music, woodworking, food preservation, and other African-American traditions, and has provided transportation, legal assistance, and other services for the needy over the past two decades. In recent years hes been sponsoring a festival on the creek, which is as The Freedom Creek Festival. Willie explains, "We was targetin at tryin to get all walks of life, different people to come down and kinda be with us in reality down there, you know. Lets get back to reality, in the woods . . . mix and mingle . . . get to know each other. Get up to have a workin relationship, try to bring peace . . ."