Felton Williams Interview

Highly regarded among steel guitarists who grew up in the Church of the Living God, Jewell Dominion, Felton Williams was a talented man with a lifelong thirst for knowledge. He was born in Tupelo Mississippi in 1934. Following the premature death of his father, at the age of four, he moved with his mother and four siblings to Mt. Clemons, about twenty miles northeast of Detroit, Michigan. As an adult, he went to work for the Ford Motor Company where through hard work, a four-year apprenticeship, and vocational studies at a local community college, he became a skilled electrician. He built steel guitars in his home workshop, one of which is on exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He wound his own pickups, fashioned amplifiers incorporating circuits he designed, and even created some electronic effects for his guitars. At his home in the Detroit suburb of Ecorse, he served as a musical and spiritual mentor for several aspiring teenage steel guitarists who gathered there regularly. Among them were Sonny Treadway, Calvin Cook, Ronnie Hall and Wayne White, all of whom became highly skilled church musicians who played significant roles in shaping the music of the Jewell and Keith Dominions.

– Robert Stone

Click here to view Williams’s guitar at the National Museum of African American History and Culture digital archive.

Felton Williams

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission.

  • RS 122 00:00
  • RS 123 00:00
  • RS 124 00:00
Interviewee: Felton Williams
Interviewer: Robert Stone
Date: 8/28/03
Location: Telephone
Language: English

For the archive overview:
The Robert Stone Sacred Steel Archive

Felton Williams Interview Transcripts:

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.