• Added info on Jimmy Ford, thanks to Volker Houghton. • Extended and corrected the post on Happy Harold Thaxton (long overdue), thanks to everyone who sent in memories and information! • Added information to the Jim Murray post, provided by Mike Doyle, Dennis Rogers, and Marty Scarbrough. • Expanded the information on Charlie Dial found in the Little Shoe post.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Jerry Lee Williams

Jerry (Lee) Williams was an important figure in Indianapolis’ country and rock’n’roll music scene of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. A talented guitarist in his own right, Williams favored to stay in the background, though, and became the owner of a group of record labels that gave countless local Indy singers and bands an opportunity to release their music.

Gerald “Jerry” Lee Williams was born on April 12, 1934, in Indianapolis and by the 1950s, had become an accomplished guitarist, probably playing the local bars in town. He was friends with Stan Cox and Earl Brooks, the latter being a country musician, too, and the trio decided to start their own record company which they named “Solid Gold”. The label was headquartered on 359 Burgess Ave on the east side of Indianapolis. They started with a girl group known as the Crysler Sisters, producing some pop recordings that saw release in 1956 on Solid Gold (“You Can’t Run Away (From Your Heart)” b/w “Little Church (By the Side of the Road)”, #713).

359 Burgess Avenue - home of Solid Gold Records

Williams followed up with another girl group, this time the Cassidy Sisters, whose release pointed towards the music that would follow, although it was still far away from hard-edged rock’n’roll. “Teen-Age Flirt” b/w “Don’t Teach Me” (Solid Gold #714, 1957). It was not until the next release at the end of 1957 that Williams set the route for the label’s future releases with Bill Peaslee’s “Hypnotized” on one side and Jay Haye’s acoustic bluesy “Tellin’ Lies” on the other side (Solid Gold #715).

Williams would record mainly rock’n’roll music on Solid Gold during the next years, including one record for his own band, the Crowns, which featured the instrumentals “The Go-Tune” and “Wibcee” (Solid Gold #778) and it was the B side that became a local favorite in 1959. Williams, Brooks, and Cox founded another two record labels: Nabor Records came into existence in 1958 at 243 Summit South Street. Nabor was mainly used for country music, Earl Brooks’ favorite style. Yolk Records, a rather short-lived venture, followed in 1960.

In between, in 1959, Williams set up a label under his sole supervision, K-W Records, which had three releases that year three more in 1960 and 1961 (under the shortened name K Records). Probably the most prominent acts on this label were rock’n’roll group Keetie and the Kats as well as Tommy Lam, a local performer and friend of Williams’. Lam also recorded the collectors’ favorite “Speed Limit” on Williams’ Nabor label in 1959.

Williams was well-connected in the Indianapolis music scene. He was friends with Jan Eden, who had turned his garage into a recording studio and it is probable that some of Williams productions were recorded there. Another friend of Williams’ was Aubrey Cagle, another local rock’n’roll and country performer, for whom Williams also played lead guitar. Surprisingly, Cagle never recorded for any of Williams’ labels, possibly because Cagle had founded his own Glee label in the late 1950s.

Though Williams put much effort in his productions and his labels, none of them could stimulate any noteworthy success outside of Indianapolis and around 1964, Solid Gold was stopping to release 45rpms and Yolk followed around the same time. KW/K had already been laid to rest in 1961. It was only Nabor Records that was kept well alive until the early 1970s, releasing mainly country music for the local market.

Although Williams would work all this time in his day job as a bearing specialist, he never gave up music. He kept up producing, performing, and record collecting. In the 1970s and 1980s, he played guitar alongside Aubrey Cagle, Lattie Moore, and Art Adams. He set up NEW Records (he took the name from the initials of his wife, Nancy Elisabeth Williams, whom he had wed in 1959), which released a few discs in the early 1970s, including one by Lattie Moore. He was friends with Moore and bought the SAGA record label, which Moore and a few others recorded for in the late 1950s.

In 1993, a disc appeared on the Silverball label comprising Tommy Lam's "Speed Limit" and a instrumental by Williams', "Outta Gas". The label was based in Nashville and the circumstances how this came into existence is unknown at the moment. In 1996, Williams produced the album “Branching Out” by rockabilly singer Ronnige Haig, also playing drums on that release, and two years later, he released the “Real Cool” CD with Aubrey Cagle’s 1950s and 1960s songs (the only one so far). He also produced recordings by Art Adams. Around 2006, Williams was interviewed by local music collector Tony Biggs. It was probably the first occasion someone documented Williams' efforts for Indianapolis' local music scene.

Jerry Lee Williams passed away on May 22, 2015, at the age of 81 years in Indianapolis. He is buried at Washington Park East Cemetery. His wife Nancy Elisabeth followed him in 2018.

Jerry Lee Williams Label Overview
• Solid Gold:    1956 - ca. 1964
• Nabor:    
       1958 - ca. 1972
• Yolk:    
          1960 - ca. 1965
• K / K-W:   
    1959 (K-W), 1960 - 1961 (K)
• NEW:    
        1972 - 1973

Find a Grave entry
Diccionario Rockabilly blog (Spanish)
• Several 45cat entries: Solid Gold, Nabor, Yolk, K-W, K, NEW, SAGA
• Several Rockin' Country Style entries: Solid Gold, Nabor, Yolk, K-W, K


Bob said...

Also, a third label called YOLK.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed Jerry Williams about four years ago. He was a close friend of Lattie Moore and had played guitar for him in the 1960s and 1970s around the Indianapolis area. He played for Caigle in the 1950s and recorded Art Adams a few years back. He also released Caigle's 'Real Cool' CD on Solid Gold Records and Ronnie Haig's 'Branching Out' CD (1996) where he not only produced and engineered the music but also played drums. He owned the Solid Gold, Yolk and Nabor labels and also bought the SAGA label that Lattie Moore recorded for c1959. Coincidently he bought the Solid Gold label from Lester M Cox who had also owned the Arrow label that Lattie Moore had debuted on. I have a copy of the SAGA EP and the Arrow 78 in my collection along with several photos of Jerry with Caigle, Adams and Moore.
I hope this helps you with your biog on one of Indianapolis's unsung heros Jerry Lee Williams.

thanks and keep up the good work

Tony Biggs

Mellow said...

Tony, thank you very much. I appreciate this really. Do you know if Mr. Williams can be contacted over an e-mail adress? I sure would like to ask him some questions about his career and his activities in the Indianapolis music scene.


Anonymous said...

Do you seek the Jerry Williams that played with Tommy Lam? If so, Mr. Williams is living in Indianapolis, IN. My husband is adopted and was told by his birth mother, that Tommy Lam is his birth father. Mr. Williams was selling an autographed Tommy Lam 45 of Speed Limit on eBay and I inquired with him about how he knew the signature to be authentic. He played and had been friends with Tommy for many years.

On a cross-country trip, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Williams this Summer and my husband got to shake the hand of a man who was great friends with his dad.

Tommy supposedly died a few years ago, but we have been unable to find any other information about him, or any living relatives, and continue searching. If you have any leads about Tommy Lam, please send to falloaks@yahoo.com.

Out of respect for Mr. Williams', please send me your name and telephone to the above email and a little about yourself and your interest in his music, and I will call Mr. WIlliams and pass along your contact info.

Take care,

Anonymous said...


My ex-husband, Thomas, is Tommy Lam's son. I am the mother of Tommy Lam's grandson who is 11 years old and also has a great niche for music. Please feel free to contact me at crystalalam20@yahoo.com.



Lloyd J. Harp said...

Dear Mellow,

Thanks so much for all your hard work and research. Although I have no information about the record lables my Dad recorded with, I appreciate the memories. As a child I remember the lables "Nabor" and "Yolk". I even still have one of the 45's! Thanks again.

Mellow said...

thanks for the memories. Any chance to contact you? I'd like to know more about your father!

Lloyd J. Harp said...


My e-mail is lj at harpllo dot com

MN said...

Intersting facts. Thanks!

About The Crowns, I found a bio of Larry Goshen in which he lists the bands he's been. He lists:
Crowns (started in 1957), duo with Jimmy Ganzberg (started in 1957 or 1958), Jerry Lee Williams and the Crowns (started in 1959), Sounds of the Crowns (later and more popular manifestation of the previous band),
The source:

From the above list one gets the notion that The Crowns existed as a band before working with Jerry Lee Williams.

Also, about "Outta Gas", although credited to Jerry Lee Williams & The Crowns, it appears to be a recording of the above mentioned group named "Sounds Of The Crowns". The publisher does not list Jerry Lee Williams as a band member. Here's the details: