He was sometimes referred to as the "Albany's Ambassador" to the blues and more often named "Legendary". Any particular way that you remember, Mr. Ernie Williams he always delivered you a great show with a smile on his face.
Ernie Williams was originally from Virginia, where he was living in a shack on a Virginia Plantation. He picked up a guitar at the age of 13 in the 1930′s and became inspired by some of the best blues artists in the world and wanted to become a blues artist himself. At the age of 19, he moved to Harlem, N.Y., to pursue his dream in music. By the 1950′s, Ernie was always playing for audiences 7 nights a week. He would do everything from amateur nights to juke joints in the dark corners of the city.
In the 1960′s, Ernie moved to Albany and put his musical career on hold to work day jobs to support his family. By the 1970′s, the blues scene started to get huge and he formed himself a band and played gigs in Albany ever since.
Over the next two decades, Ernie Williams became a fixture on the local music scene. He earned a dedicated following through his performances with The Ernie Williams Band, formerly known as the Wildcats. From 1991 to 2001, local blues musician, Mark Emanatian played lead guitar with Williams’ band, touring the U.S. and Canada. “He was charming, he had a huge smile, he loved people, he loved to tell jokes and he loved kids,” Emanatian said.
In addition to his musical performances, Ernie's charisma had landed him both magazine and TV spots. He was selected by Canon for their ad campaign for their new line of copiers called "Canon Blues". He also appeared on a TV commercial for "Grapes and Grains", a Capital District upscale wine establishment.
In March of 2008, The Capital Region’s king of the blues, Ernie Williams, opened for King and he and his stellar band made the most of their 30-minute set, winning a standing ovation from the very receptive crowd.
Ernie was one of the most beloved performers in the region. From the House of Blues in Boston to Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago; He jammed with blues greats like Otis Redding, B.B. King, Albert King and Jimmy Reed.to opening slots for major recording acts, Ernie has been a force to be reckoned with. Ernie and his band represented the East Coast in KLON's National Blues Talent Search and walked away with a prize for first runner up; on two occasions they received a Critic's Choice column in the "Chicago Reader". To date, Ernie has released six CD's. As far as we know, Ernie Williams was an Independent Artist and never signed to a record label or deal. He was always an unsigned musician who was the boss of his musical dream.
Even though he was never famous nationally, he did create a huge legacy in the Capital District area. Ernie never cared for fame, he did it for the love of music. Ernie Williams, longtime frontman of the Wildcats blues band, passed away Wednesday March 21st at the age of 87. Before his passing, he still kept performing live and playing gigs. Just like UNIR1 Radio, Ernie Williams never gave up.
This is a sad loss in the music scene. I had the honor of sitting in with Ernie Williams & The Wildcats at the Stony Creek Pavilion! Ernie let me borrow his amplifier and everything to hook me up to play with him and his band. He was a great man, a gifted artist and musician and he will be missed by many! ~Scott Price
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