Maurice Williams, songwriter and vocalist from Lancaster, South Carolina, influenced the direction and sound of early Rock ’n’ Roll and Rhythm & Blues with his groundbreaking hits Stay and Little Darlin’.
Williams formed his first R&B vocal group in the 1950s, The Royal Charms, later known as the Gladiolas. The group performed Williams’ first hit as a songwriter, Little Darlin’, in Nashville. The song was also recorded by The Diamonds, a Doo-Wop group, and climbed to number five on the pop charts.
In 1960, The Gladiolas changed their name to Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, the same year Williams wrote and recorded Stay in Columbia. The song propelled the group to national stardom and performances on American Bandstand and the Merv Griffin Show. Williams’ other television appearances included Rock & Roll Graffiti on TNT, and Doo-Wop 51, a PBS special. The classic Stay has been recorded by a variety of artists, most notably Jackson Browne, whose version hit number one in 1976 and earned Williams another gold record. Little Darlin’ and Stay were both featured on the soundtracks of movie classics American Graffiti and Dirty Dancing.
Williams is an inductee in the Doo-Wop and Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and the South Carolina Music Entertainment Hall of Fame. He also received the Order of the Palmetto Award in 2001 and the Hennessy Privilege Award in 2004. He is one of a few South Carolinians to have performed in both the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
Williams recently celebrated his 50th year in music with another studio recording, Little Darlin’ –50 Years– the Beginning. In May, the Chamber of Commerce and Jaycees in Sanford, North Carolina honored Williams for his humanitarian efforts and his contributions to the Boys & Girls Home of Waccamaw.