Here’s a clip featuring R&B foot soldier and Beatles-favourite Larry Williams with his 1958 hit, “Slow Down”.

Williams was solidly of the R&B school, eschewing guitar-centric rock ‘n’ roll in favour of traditional R&B instrumentation – piano & sax as leads, with the guitar used mostly as a rhythm instrument. But, like Chuck Berry, he was an original songwriter, showing himself to be a gifted conveyor of bluesy grit and sexually-explosive 12-bar fury.

Larry Williams, R&B legend beloved of the Beatles who helped to inspire the British Invasion in the 1960s
Larry Williams, R&B legend beloved of the Beatles who helped to inspire the British Invasion in the 1960s

Larry Williams, like Fats Domino, was based in New Orleans, yet missed the fame train that made Domino a star. Part of this had to do with his involvement in drugs, and his alleged inclination towards violence. Yet, his records were very popular in the Britain, celebrated by those who wanted the genuine article when it came to the kind of gritty rhythm & blues they were hearing on Radio Luxembourg. Williams delivered the goods, with this song and those in that shared its intensity being heavily covered by first-tier British beat groups: “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (the Beatles), “She Said Yeah” (the Rolling Stones), and “Bony Maronie” (The Who), just to name three. Williams was a key artist that drove the eventual R&B boom in England at the beginning of the 60s, which of course led to what is now known as “The British Invasion” by 1964.

“Slow Down” would be covered by a great many artists across the rock spectrum and across the decades including The Young Rascals, Blodwyn Pig, The Jam, and Brian May. It would also be featured in the Beatles bio-pic Backbeat, being as it was a key song in their repertoire while the band played the Hamburg club circuit. The Fabs would record it as a cut on their UK Long Tall Sally EP in 1964. Their version of the song also appears on Capitol Records release, Something New, and the UK compilation Past Masters, Vol.1.



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