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Old Girl At My Door

Robert Pete Williams


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The Prison Blues


Louisiana bluesman Robert Pete Williams performs "Old Girl At My Door" at his home in Baton Rouge in 1971. -The narration is provided by Beat poet Ted Joans.

Robert Pete Williams was discovered in Louisiana State Penitentiary, by ethnomusicologists Dr. Harry Oster and Richard Allen, where he was serving a life sentence for shooting a man dead in a local club in 1956, an act which he claimed was in self-defense. Oster and Allen recorded Williams performing several of his songs about life in prison, and pleaded for him to be pardoned. Under pressure from Oster, the parole board issued a pardon, and commuted his sentence to 12 years. In December 1958, he was released into 'servitude parole', which required 80 hours of labor per week on a Denham Springs farm without due compensation, and only room and board provided. This parole prevented him from working in music, though he was able to occasionally play with Willie B. Thomas and Butch Cage at Thomas's home in Zachary. By this time, Williams' music had achieved some favorable word-of-mouth reviews, and he played his first concert outside Louisiana at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. By 1965, he was able to tour the country, traveling to Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Chicago and Berkeley, California, and in 1966 toured Europe.

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