Loss of 'great vocalist' leaves fans, musicians blue
Rebounding from a health scare, Willie Pooch took the stage in January before a packed house at a Worthington restaurant--where 300 people had gathered for a tribute to the bluesman.
So many musicians showed up that the entertainment lasted 10 hours.
His right leg had recently been amputated, but the ebullient Pooch--wearing a white mink coat--joined in nonetheless: He crooned from his wheelchair.
He made you want to get up there and perform," said Columbus blues singer Teeny Tucker, a longtime friend and collaborator.
He was a natural."
Pooch died Wednesday at age 72 of complications from diabetes.
He was born William Johnson in 1937 and grew up in Tupelo, Miss., before moving with his family at 13 to the South Side of Chicago.
There, the teenager - who as a youngster sang gospel tunes in church--discovered the blues.
In a 1999 Dispatch interview, he recalled career advice from Windy City guitarist Luther Allison.
Just remember 'baby' and 'honey' instead of singing 'Jesus,'" Pooch said. You sing, 'Oh, you know that Jesus...'; instead, you go, 'Oh, you know my baby.'"
At 26, Pooch made his way to Columbus to rejoin keyboardist and former Chicago band mate Big" Dale Sales.
He spent 30 years at Buckeye Steel but made ample time after work for gigs. On rare occasions, he played bass.