Happy Birthday Moses Williams (February 15, 1919)

Moses Williams playing the diddley bow- Waverly, Florida

Moses Williams playing the diddley bow- Waverly, Florida

Moses Williams (1919-1988) was born February 15 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He spent much of his life traveling, either in show business or working as an itinerant farm worker, which eventually brought him to Florida.

Moses Williams playing the diddley bow for a group of boys- Waverly, Florida

Moses Williams playing the diddley bow for a group of boys- Waverly, Florida

At the age of 11, he learned the harmonica, but it was his one-string zither, or “diddley bow,” that made him unique. The instrument was comprised of a broom wire tensioned upside a door with a tin can resonator, and played with glass bottle slide. It earned him nicknames like “Broom Wire Slim” and “Doorman.”

Moses Williams playing the diddley bow - White Springs, Florida

Moses Williams playing the diddley bow – White Springs, Florida

Moses was discovered by folklorist Dwight DeVane in the late 1970s, and appeared on the Florida Folklife Program’s 1981 double LP, Drop on Down in Florida, which was recently reissued by Dust-to-Digital. In addition to these recordings, Moses made several appearances at the Florida Folk Festival, schools, and other folk arts forums around the state.

His distinctive repertoire for the diddley bow consisted of both standards such as “Sitting on Top of the World” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and original tunes, most notably “Which Way Did My Baby Go” and “Apple Farm Blues.” Both of these songs have been included on the Florida Folklife Collection sampler CDs Music from the Florida Folklife Collection and Where the Palm Trees Shake at Night: Blues Music from the Florida Folklife Collection.  Enjoy.

“Which Way Did My Baby Go”

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“Apple Farm Blues”

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