OVERVIEW OF THE COLLECTION
Title: Claude Williams Papers
Collection Date(s): circa 1920-2005
Extent and Forms of Material: 4.66 cubic feet, including photographs and audio recordings (14 boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1 CD, 13 audiocassette tapes)
Creator: Claude and Blanche Y. Fouse Williams
Abstract: Business and personal papers, photographs, and audio recordings of Claude “Fiddler” Williams, an award-winning jazz fiddler. Although Williams played music for almost a century the materials in this collection date largely from 1970 to 2005.
Collection Number: AC0909
Processing Note: Processed by Meghan Lyon (intern), February 2007, Tiffany Draut (intern), 2008, Adrienne Cain (intern), 2008; supervised by Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist, 2008.
INFORMATION FOR USERS OF THE COLLECTION
Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.
Physical Access: Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an “as needed” basis, as resources allow.
Technical Access: Do not use original materials when available on reference audio tapes.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use. All duplication requests must be reviewed and approved by Archives Center staff.
Preferred Citation: Title and date of item, Claude Williams Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX
IN-DEPTH INFORMATION ABOUT THE COLLECTION
Biographical History: Claude “Fiddler” Williams, 1908-2004, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the son of a blacksmith. His musical gifts developed at a very early age, and he quickly became adept at the guitar, banjo, mandolin and cello, learning mostly by ear, without formal training. After hearing the jazz violinist Joe Venuti, the violin became his instrument of choice, and it remained so for the rest of his life. He migrated to Kansas City in 1927 and toured with several territory bands. Additionally Williams toured with the Twelve Clouds of Joy and the Cole Brothers, and in 1936, joined Count Basie’s band as the first guitarist. After he was fired from Count Basie’s band because John Hammond thought Williams’s guitar solos were taking too much attention away from Basie, he went back to the violin (or “fiddle” as he preferred to call it) and focused exclusively on it for the rest of his life. Later he started his own band and toured with several jazz groups working for a short time with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). His band appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Nice Jazz Festival, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folk Life. Williams received numerous honors and awards, including induction into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, a proclamation from the city of Kansas City, and a 1998 National Heritage Fellowship which included a $10,000 award. President Bill Clinton invited him to perform at one of the parties celebrating his first inauguration. Williams continued to tour and perform until well into his nineties. He also gave instruction at Mark O’Connor’s annual fiddle camp to young violinists. Mr. Williams died in April 2004.
Scope and Content: This collection documents the later life and career of jazz violinist Claude "Fiddler" Williams. Materials include correspondence, photographs, unpublished writings, awards, business records, financial records, programs and a few music manuscripts. There is one scrapbook and several audio recordings. There are also an autographed poster from 1997 honoring five inductees to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, including Claude Williams, Merle Haggard, Patti Page, Woody Guthrie and Eddie Burris. While there are some materials from Williams’s youth, the vast majority of the collection dates from 1970. Williams’s second wife, Blanche Y. Fouse-Williams, was vigilant about saving his papers. She also managed his career for the last few years of his life. This accounts for the increased volume of materials documenting his later years. Materials generally are arranged in chronological order within series and subseries.
Series 1, Business Records, 1973-2005,undated, is divided into seven subseries and includes business records, information relating to tours and performances, awards and certificates, business and personal correspondence, financial papers, articles and newspaper clippings, and biographical information.
Subseries 1, Events, 1977-2004, undated, includes contracts, copies of newspaper clippings, performance programs, brochures, ticket stubs, travel itineraries, travel receipts, correspondence, materials regarding his work as a fiddle teacher, advertisements for performances, a certificate of recognition, and napkins saved from a Washington Education Television Association (WETA) performance at the White House in 1998. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 2, Itineraries, 1990-2001, includeslists and correspondence detailing locations, musicians, travel and lodging plans, and financial compensation for William’s performances. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 3, Awards and Certificates, 1978-2002, contains awards and certificates of appreciation from the Steamboat Delta Queen, Annual Black Musicians Conference, Kansas City Chapter of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors, and the Manhattan School of Music, as well as an invitation to a reception honoring Kansas City Jazz musicians from the Consul General of Japan. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 4, Correspondence, 1975-2004, consists ofinformation relating to travel arrangements, tours, remuneration, music recordings, press kits, contracts, public television performances, involvement with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as Williams’s Smithsonian Folkways recording. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 5, Financial Papers, 1990-2005, includes information about travel and payment, hotel bills and receipts, invoices for performances, music recordings sales, royalty statements and copies of checks. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 6, Press, 1973–2005, undated, includes magazines, newspaper clippings and articles, about Williams’s performances and music, appearances and jazz festivals, as well as the Kansas City Jazz scene. Magazine titles include Kansas City Magazine, Missouri Alumnus, The Masters Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, Jazz Ambassador Magazine, Kansas City Ambassador to Jazz, The Mississippi Rag, Fiddler Magazine, Jazz News, Jazz Times, Living Blues, Blues Access, and Kansas City. Materials are arranged by type and then in chronological order.
Subseries 7, Music, 1989-1995, undated, contains thirteen audio tape recordings, one CD, sheet music and set lists of music performed by Williams. There is an audio recording of Black and Blue: A Musical Revue, a Folk Master performance at Carnegie Hall. Williams’s work with James Chirillo, an appearance on Birdflight, as well as recordings of live and studio performances are also included among these materials. There is a copy of Williams’s CD Swingtime in New York and an interview from1992. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Series 2, Personal Papers, 1978–2005, undated, is divided into two subseries and contains letters, cards, postcards, invitations, copies of email, and requests for information and interviews. Most of the correspondence was addressed to Williams but there are materials that were sent to Blanche Williams. The correspondence is generally from fans, friends and family.
Subseries 1, Correspondence, 1978-2005, undated, consists of birthday cards from school age children, postcards, copies of newspaper clippings, White House and other government correspondence, congratulations or birthday wishes, as well as personal correspondence from friends inquiring about Williams’s health and well-being. Also included is a draft for a chapter in a book on Claude Williams’s contributions to jazz. Requests relating to research about Williams are also included. Materials are arranged in chronological order. Materials are arranged first by type followed by general correspondence in chronological order.
Subseries 2, Miscellaneous, undated, containsephemera, autographs, affiliates list, well-wishes to Blanche Williams, a funeral program, mailing lists, lists of affiliated organizations, and a Count Bassie autograph.
Series 3, Photographs, 1977-2004, undated, includespersonal and professional photographic prints and negatives of Williams. Subjects include performances and festivals, headshots and publicity, images of other musicians, family, friends, and posters with photographs created for his funeral. The majority of these photographs are of performances. Materials are arranged by subject.
System of Arrangement: This collection is arranged into three series:
Languages:Some contracts are in French.
Acquisition Information: This collection was donated by Claude Williams’s widow, Blanche Y. Fouse-Williams, in 2005.
Related Artifacts: Artifacts donated to the Museum’s Division of Music, Sports, and Entertainment include a suit and violin Accession numbers: 2005.3105 and 2007.3020.