Wet Willie Kept On Smiling

Our latest contributor, Doug Christian, takes a deep-dive into the great sothern band, from Macon, GA, and Capricorn Records, WET WILLIE, best known for their iconic radio record, KEEP ON SMILING. -- TDR

Wet Willie is an American band from Mobile, Alabama. They are best known for their hit "Keep On Smilin'," reaching Number 10 on the Billboard Chart in August 1974, but had a number of charted songs in the 1970s utilizing their soulful brand of Southern rock. Drummer Lewis Ross assembled the musicians for a group called "Fox" in the summer of 1969 and after relocating from Mobile, AL. to Macon, GA., home of Phil Walden's Capricorn Records, became known as "Wet Willie." When that album came out, I was working middays at WABB-AM in Mobile at the time and chipped in some bucks to promote an outdoor Homecoming Concert/Get Out The Vote Rally which was promptly shut down by the local authorities. Something about disturbing the peace. I did, however, make my money back plus enough for a couple of beers. My first and last venture into the concert promotion field . The core members of the band during that period were Jimmy Hall, vocals, harmonica, saxophone; Jimmy's brother Jack Hall on bass; John David Anthony on keyboards; Ricky Hirsch on guitar, and Lewis Ross on drums and percussion. Wick Larsen was added as a second guitarist for a brief stay during the Wet Willie II album period.

The duo of girls singing background vocals dubbed "The Williettes" were staple of the classic Wet Willie sound that featured Jimmy & Jack's sister, Donna Hall and Ella Brown Avery. For a short period of time in 1974 UK singer Elkie Brooks joined the band as a backing singer, as did future Honkette Leslie Hawkins.

Michael Duke debuted on the album Dixie Rock adding keyboards and vocals and stayed with the band through their tenure in the Southern Rock era. A period of personnel and record label changes followed and in 1978 with a new Epic Records contract the new line-up included Jimmy and Jack Hall, Mike Duke, drummer T.K. Lively, and guitarists Marshall Smith and Larry Berwald through the early 80's. After a brief hiatus the band regrouped in the early 90’s featuring the siblings Jimmy, Jack and Donna Hall, original keyboardist John David Anthony and drummer T.K. Lively as well as long-time members guitarists Ric Seymour and Ricky Chancey. In 2012 Wet Willie released a new live CD "Miles of Smiles" on the Hittin' The Note Records label. They continue to tour with three original members including original lead singer Jimmy Hall, brother Jack Hall on bass and vocals, sister Donna Hall Foster on vocals as well as other long time members, drummer T.K. Lively, Ric Seymour on guitar and vocals, Ricky Chancey on guitar and newest member, keyboardist Bobby Mobley.

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