Cultural Percussionist

Henry “Rubberlegs” Williams Day

Henry “Rubberlegs” Williams (14 July 1907 in Atlanta – 17 October 1962 in New York City) was an American blues and jazz singer, dancer and occasional female impersonator. A star of Vaudeville, he is probably best remembered for his singing work with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, although it was for his dancing that he was renowned for in New York City and Boston.

Williams was born in Atlanta in 1907. He became employed as dancer with Bobby Grant’s Female Impersonators in 1919 and became a spectacle. He later won several Cakewalk and Charleston competitions and other dancing contests and achieved success on Vaudeville, going on tours with the Theater Owners Booking Association. He got his nickname “Rubberlegs” because he danced as if he had legs made of rubber. In 1933 he appeared in the short film Smash Your Luggage, and appeared in shows like the “Cotton Club Parade” and “Blackbirds of 1933”. He was a regular performer at The Cotton Club and the Apollo in Harlem, and at the Southland ballroom in Boston, and according to Count Basie, he became the venue’s most prominent attraction with his elaborates dances. He also appeared as a singer with prominent artists such Count Basie Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson, Chick Webb and Charlie Parker, and sang on the first recording of Dizzy Gillespie‘s “Hot House” on April 1, 1945 in New York City.

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