Williams grew up surrounded by music in the early '70s, learning slide guitar licks and stage presence from his blues-legend uncle, J.B. Hutto. Ed found his own sound but he respectfully recalls his uncle's influence. "He was real cool and smooth," Williams says softly. "[After watching Hutto] I did want to play I just wanted to mingle with the people."
During the '70s and into the '80s, Ed played gigs at night on Chicago's North and West sides. By day he worked at a car wash. He says with security at his job he was reluctant to enter a wider musical world and was content playing local bars. Eventually, a broader career forced itself on Ed when Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records asked him and the Imperials to cut two tracks for a compilation album in 1986. After hearing the band in the studio, Iglauer offered Williams a deal on the spot. The band was soon on national and European stages but Ed clung to his day job. Eventually, circumstances intervened again.
"I was scared and didn't know about the traveling thing. [But] my boss at the car wash made me quit. He said, 'Why don't you take this opportunity?'"
Except for a two-year respite in the '90s to kick his demons ["I had went completely downhill"], Ed now takes advantage of all the opportunities. He admits "I don't like mountains and I don't like flyin'," but the rest is gravy.
"I'm lovin' it. I had no idea where this was gonna take me. I got a lot of peacefulness in life." Ames Arnold
Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials play the Boulevard Deli, 5218 W. Broad St., May 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance at Plan 9 and the Boulevard Deli or $10 at the door,$8 for River City Blues Society members. Call 282-9333.