Emery ‘Detroit Junior’ Williams, 73; Blues Pianist and Songwriter

Blues pianist and songwriter Emery “Detroit Junior” Williams, 73, an energetic performer who entertained audiences despite having lost a leg to diabetes, died Tuesday of heart failure at his Chicago home, said longtime friend Bruce Iglauer, founder and president of Alligator Records.

In a musical career that spanned more than 50 years, Williams was known for his sense of humor and wild performances, which often featured him playing the piano while lying on the floor.

“He just loved being on the bandstand,” Iglauer said. “He’d kick the piano bench over and drop to his knees and play.... He was a one-man blues party.”

A native of Haynes, Ark., Emery Williams Jr. learned to play piano at a young age and had performed in clubs in Michigan by the time he was 19. He got the nickname “Detroit Junior” after arriving in Chicago in the 1950s and recording his first single, “Money Tree.”

Williams was a tireless songwriter but recorded only four albums under his own name.