Sounds Visual Radio
Sounds Visual Radio
Episode 160: Esther Williams

A consistent favorite among DJs over the years since its initial debut in 1976, the timeless banger “Last Night Changed It All” by vocalist Esther Williams has gained such widespread popularity that it’s highly probable to have been heard in soul and funk clubs across the globe. Despite its transformation into one of the most cherished and widely used hip-hop samples in history, scant information has been available about Esther’s story.

Originally hailing from Waukegan, Illinois, Esther started her professional career in earnest as a vocalist when capturing the title of Miss Black DC. She toured Germany with the Miss Black America Tour and her many guest appearances included national and international venues and many guest appearances on national television and radio programs.

Esther landed a recording contract with Friends and Company Records after producer Eddie Drennon heard vocals she had recorded for others, including the hit “Let’s Do the Latin Hustle.” She then went on to record two successful dance albums (1976’s Let Me Show You and 1978’s Bustin’ Out) and another successful album for RCA records (1981’s Inside of Me).

Musical theater was a natural transition including performances at Ford’s Theater in “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope”, as well as “Tambourines to Glory” with the Black American Theater Club in D.C. and traveling productions of Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin”. Beautiful Friendship was released in 2004 by Esther and saxophonist Davey Yarborough to great reviews. She can be heard on the CD’s Jazz at Peoples Church, a New Experience, Christmas Jazz at Peoples Church and Amazing Grace with bandleader Bobby Felder.

Esther has opened for the Temptations, at the Savoy in New York City, and Peaches and Herb at Baltimore’s Harbor Place. Esther performs regularly at the East Coast Jazz Festival and has performed for The Chesapeake Jazz Society, Live Music Now and the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Showcase in New York with Davey Yarborough. She has been a guest performer at the annual Kennedy Center Kwanzaa Celebration, and on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Esther sings with the Voices of Peoples Gospel choir at Peoples Church in DC, and is a regular performer in their Jazz Vesper series. Esther and her choir performed with gospel artist Larnelle James.

An engaging emcee, Esther produced and directed three successful musical variety shows, as well as emceed the Dumbarton Concert Series of Washington, DC.

Together, in 1998, Esther and Davey Yarborough created the Washington Jazz Arts Institute, a non-profit organization with community programs, dedicated to educating and mentoring young and aspiring musicians.

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