Nelson Williams began touring as a trumpeter with territory bands in the '30s, working with groups such as the Trianon Crackerjacks, the Brown Skin Models, and the Dixie Rhythm Girls. He was the musical director of the latter group, based out of Birmingham, AL. Obviously the trumpeter's nickname of "Cadillac" came along later: it was given to him by no less a boss than Duke Ellington, whose brass section Williams joined in 1949. Williams started out on piano at 13, switching to trumpet shortly thereafter and according to legend gigging with boogie woogie piano maestro Cow Cow Davenport as little as three years later. By the end of that decade he had left Birmingham, relocating to Philadelphia, where he became part of the Tiny Bradshaw Band. Williams served in the Army during the Second World War, his trumpet his main weapon in a military band stationed in the Pacific.
The wonderful vocalist Billy Eckstine employed the trumpeter after the war. In the late '40s Williams gigged in bands led by bassist John Kirby and pianist Billy Kyle, then began the first of several periods with Ellington, staying until 1951 when the trumpeter decided to move to Paris. He returned to Ellington in 1956, leading his own bands throughout Europe in the interim. Williams' main opportunity as a leader on records is an early-'50s French production entitled Five Horn Groove & All Stars, remastered and reissued by the BMG company in 2005. The trumpeter was living in Voorburg, Holland, at the time of his death. His last performances of note were with Ellington on a 1969 European tour. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi