Charles Anthony “Buster” Williams (born April 17, 1942 in Camden, New Jersey) is an American jazz bassist. Williams is known for his membership in pianist Herbie Hancock‘s early 1970s group, working with guitarist Larry Coryell from the 1980s to present, working in the Thelonious Monk repertory band Sphere and as the accompanist of choice for many singers, including Nancy Wilson.
Williams’ father, Charles Anthony Williams, Sr., was a musician who played bass, drums, and piano, and had band rehearsals in the family home in Camden, New Jersey, exposing Williams to jazz at an early age. Williams was particularly inspired to focus on bass after hearing his father’s record of Star Dust, performed by Oscar Pettiford, and started playing in his early teens. He had his first professional gig while he was still a junior high school student, filling in for Charles, Sr., who had double booked himself one evening. Williams later spent his days practicing with Sam Dockery, who was playing in Jimmy Heath‘s band in Philadelphia on a regular double bill with Sam Reed. Charles, Sr. hosted a jam session at a club called Rip’s and gave Williams the opportunity to put his own group together for a Monday night show in 1959, and in an effort to work his way into Heath’s band, Williams hired Sam Reed. The plan worked, as two days later Reed contacted Williams about playing in his band that coming Saturday, which demonstrated Williams’ talent to Heath, who in turn hired Williams the following week. Just after graduating high school in 1960, Williams had the opportunity to play with Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt when Nelson Boyd reached out to Charles, Sr. to cover for him. Charles, Sr. was also unable to make the gig, and sent Buster in his stead. After the first set on a Friday night, Ammons and Stitt asked Williams to join the band on tour, starting in Chicago, after playing through the weekend in Philadelphia. Williams toured with them for about a year, from 1960 into 1961, until the group got stranded in Kansas City and was abandoned by Ammons, who fled without paying the band. The rhythm section managed to work with Al Hibbler for one week in order to earn enough for train fare to return home. Williams made his first two recordings with the Ammons/Stitt group in August 1961, Dig Him! for Argo Records and Boss Tenors for Verve, both recorded in Chicago.