The proverbial child prodigy, Little Willie Littlefield so thoroughly absorbed the thundering piano prowess of his hero Albert Ammons that he was rocking houses on Houston's Dowling Street in his mid-teens. His penchant for romping boogies made him a natural answer to fellow Houstonian Amos Milburn, then a red-hot hitmaking commodity, so Modern Records swept him up in 1949 and brought him to L.A. His habit of setting piano triplets against a blues backbeat was soaked up down in New Orleans by Fats Domino, who made it a primary facet of his sound
The native of El Campo, Texas (where he was born September 16, 1931) made his first 78s for Eddie Henry, the owner of Eddie's Record Shop on Dowling, who was so taken by Willie's sound that he launched his self-named Eddie's label to introduced Littlefield to the public, starting with Little Willie's Boogie in '48. Then Jules Bihari came to Houston and heard Little Willie at the El Dorado Ballroom. His first Modern hit in '49, It's Midnight, was done in Houston with future Ray Charles saxman Donald Wilkerson in the band, but subsequent Littlefield releases were cut on the coast. That includes Hit The Road, a self-penned jump (Jules Bihari appended his writing sobriquet to this one too) cut December 11, 1949 in L.A., that features some trebly in-your-face guitar, maybe by Chuck Norris.
Willie managed two more R&B chart entries, Farewell and I've Been Lost, before exiting Modern in 1952 and moving over to Federal Records. There he waxed the original version of Kansas City as K.C. Loving (somehow it avoided the charts altogether), as well as such memorable titles as The Midnight Hour Was Shining and Sitting On The Curbstone. While living in the Bay Area, Willie turned up on Don Barksdale's Rhythm logo with Ruby Ruby in 1957, then spent much of the next two decades entertaining San José supper club patrons. Littlefield moved to the Netherlands in the '80s and has undergone quite a career revival since then, playing prestigious festivals worldwide (including the Ponderosa Stomp and the Chicago Blues Festival in 2009).