Paul Williams hangs up his Walkin’ Shoes

Paul Williams - photo by Ted LehmannPaul Williams, one of the most dynamic and enduring entertainers in bluegrass, has decided to call it a day. Having written a handful of classic songs over his career, which has involved 60 years running the roads, no one is more deserving of a long and restful retirement.

It was with The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers that Williams first hit the scene in the early 1950s, playing guitar and sharing his clear tenor voice. A few years later, he was working with Jimmy Martin on mandolin in an iconic collaboration that also included J.D. Crowe. Several of Martin’s biggest numbers were Paul’s contributions: Mr. EngineerPrayer Bells Of Heaven, and My Walkin’ Shoes Don’t Fit Me Anymore.

After leaving Martin in 1962, Paul devoted his music to spreading his sincere Christian faith. He served as choir director at his church, and sang with his Northside Quartet within a 100 radius of his home in east Tennessee, and on a long-running Sunday morning radio show. In 1997 he assembled a new group, The Victory Trio, who toured nationally through 2013 and recorded a number of fine bluegrass Gospel projects for Rebel Records.

But of course, Paul can’t really leave it all behind. He told us this morning that he will still do a few special performances with the Trio each year, and with Crowe and Lawson as Old Friends. In fact they have recently completed a new project together set for a Spring release on the Mountain Home label.

“We’re really proud of it. J.D. and Doyle are two of my best friends in the music business – in the whole world. We always have a good time together.

We’re looking forward to the year, with some special shows together.”

On the new record, in addition to Doyle on guitar, Paul on mandolin and Crowe on banjo, Tim Surrett is on bass, Jason Barrie on fiddle, and Josh Swift on resonator guitar. The material is a mix of Gospel and secular bluegrass and while the final tracks haven’t been selected, Paul said that they cut a few classics from their Martin days, some Louvin Brothers songs and some classic country.

Paul also mentioned that he and the Victory Trio (Dan Moneyhun, Jerry Keys, Susie Keys, Adam Winstead) had taped an episode for the Marty Stuart Show, set to air on February 8.

“We really enjoyed being there. They treated us like family; it was an honor to appear with Marty.”

Sounds like a typical bluegrass retirement. Or as Williams put it, “I’ll still be singing, I just won’t be going out every weekend.”

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.