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 Originally from Chicago, Carol Williams grew up in several small Midwestern towns, one of which consisted of 65 people near Lacrosse, Wisconsin, another in the southern tip of Indiana in the heart of Lincoln Country, with a final move to a rural area in Illinois that was at least driving distance to Chicago; “you could flag down the Amtrak train if you stood by the tracks next to the Sandwich train station”. She played flute in the school band and took piano lessons until, she says; “I realized that no amount of practicing Chopin was ever going to help me learn to play real music”.

ready to play

me before the glasses

Saugatuck

check out the frames

high school

far right cheerleader

 After high school, she dropped in and out of several colleges; lived in the Hells’ Kitchen section of Manhattan where she studied guitar and waitressed; hitch-hiked around the East coast; moved back to Chicago and played flute and electric guitar in the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union Rock Band: and played piano and flute and sang in a bar band named Queens High “when the hours were 8:30 PM until 3:30 AM except on weekends, when you played until 4:30”. She went out and bought an old tenor sax after hearing someone sit in on a gig with them. “I thought it would be easy to learn. It wasn’t.” After that band broke up, she drove a taxi in Chicago, until deciding that she’d rather not get held up at gunpoint a second time.

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Chicago band

1973

my back porch

 In 1975, she discovered Berklee College of Music in Boston, which was “the best thing that ever happened to me, musically, and also on the first day there I saw the person who I ended up spending my life with, Kimo Williams”. He knocked on her practice room door, curious to find out how anyone who played the sax so badly could get into music school. She finished two years at Berklee, then went on the road with show bands throughout Canada and New England for a year. “The gig with Al Valentino and the Playmates (of the 50s’ “Beep-Beep” novelty song) was the end of the line when he fired me onstage at some club in the middle of Connecticut. He said I was the worst tenor player he ever heard in his life. I think he was just mad because I wouldn’t wear the pink jumpsuit”.

Boston 1977

Kimo on Cape Cod 1977

ping pong with Kimo

 When the long-distance phone calls left them flat broke, Carol and Kimo (a Vietnam veteran) decided that the lure of free medical/dental offered by Uncle Sam was too good to pass up, so they enlisted together into the Army band program. She spent two years with the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, Washington, and another five years at Fort Sheridan, north of Chicago, playing everything from parades to jazz-band to concert band performances throughout the Midwest. Her nickname at Fort Lewis was "the Dumpster Lady", because she could always be found doing long tones and scales in front of any available flat surface- usually a brick wall or dumpster- while waiting for the parades or ceremonies to start. "Seven years in the army gave me alot of time to practice, usually outdoors in all kinds of weather. Army bands follow their divisions, so when the 9th Infantry went out on an FTX, we went too. We didn't take our instruments, though. It was serious war games and perimeter guarding."

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last of the WACs

& the glasses were FREE, too!

Ft. Lewis

LeMoynes in Tacoma

1979

Ft. Sheridan jazz band

military ceremony

rappelling

 In the early 1980’s Carol and Kimo played the Chicago club scene with their small band Williams and Williams, and created performances with Kimos’ big band (then called the Paumalu Symphony) now known as Kimotion. She is featured on tenor and baritone saxophone and flute on his CDs War Stories and Tracking. They bought an old storefront (a notorious brothel that had recently been closed down) on the near-northwest side and single-handedly rehabbed it for use as a rehearsal space and recording studio. “People in the neighborhood who had been customers would knock on the door to ask if we were still in business. And, yes, we found lots of weird and funky stuff behind the bar and in the attic.” Carol left the Army in 1985 after their daughter Rebecca was born. Several years later, when an opening became available in the sax section of the Army Blues jazz ensemble of the US Army Band in Washington, DC, Carol was the first woman instrumentalist ever to be chosen to audition for that band. When she didn't get the job, “they offered to take me for the parade band, but by that time I’d had enough marching.”

Chicago club 1983

Sarge and baby

jobbers

rehabber with money pit
In 1988 Carol received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to do performances and recordings, and that was the beginning of her direction as a singer-songwriter. During the next three years she played the dinner/dance circuit at Chicago area restaurants and hotels as a solo act; accompanied modern dance classes on piano at Barat College; and worked as a lifeguard at the YMCA “when the gigs dried up”. After recording her first CD Carol Williams in 1991 “I thought I was on my way. Instead, I ended up going to nursing school.” That was a long-term plan that paid off: she recorded a second CD titled Small-Town Girl in 1998. In 2005 she started working on her third CD, called I Can Live With That. In 2007 her fourth CD Letter from Chief Seattle was also completed, both with former Pat Metheny drummer Danny Gottlieb.

CD:with Mark Walker on drums,
Steve Rodby on bass

CD:with Danny Gottlieb
on drums

CD: with Danny Gottlieb
on drums

1989

From 2004 to 2008, she was the tenor sax player with Gary Sinise’s rock/cover group the Lt. Dan Band, which her husband Kimo founded. They performed for the USO on military bases throughout the world, and locally at fundraisers for causes such as the USO, the Viet Nam Veterans Art Museum, and Gary’s “Operation Iraqi Children”. They’ve been to Korea, Singapore and British Indian Ocean Territory, as well as many locations in the US and Europe.

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1

at work 1997


Lt. Dan Band with Gary Sinise, Chicago '04

on tour with Lt. Dan Band 2005


Germany with USO 2007
In 2008 she changed course again, returning to her keyboard-based singer/songwriter roots with a series of CDs based on thematic topical subjects. The first, called Empty Boots: Commentaries on War and Country has had generous airplay on folk radio, and is embedded on the webpage of the Chicago Chapter of Veterans for Peace. Carol has performed the title track at events and fundraisers throughout the Midwest. Her second in this series, We Can Work It Out: Commentaries on the Beatles landed her a feature at the Beatles Festival in downstate Benton, Illinois--home of George Harrisons sister where the Beatles were first played on the radio in 1963. The third in the series is Hey Joan: Commentaries on Her and begins with a gender-reversed version of the classic Hendrix "Hey Joe", and speaks to women's issues.

CD: Empty Boots

CD: We Can Work It Out

CD: Hey Joan

performing Empty Boots 2008

Aside from working as an ER nurse in a downtown Chicago hospital, Carol taught anatomy and physiology for the Medical Assisting Program at Robert Morris College in Chicago. She and Kimo are continuing their focus with their non-profit organization USVAP (the United States Veterans Art Program), and recently performed at the Hue Festival in Vietnam with their 4-piece version of "Kimotion" (www.Kimotion.org). When asked why she never considered trying her luck in LA or New York like so many other aspiring musicians do, she says: "I'd rather be a nobody in Chicago than a somebody anywhere else".

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Hue Vietnam 2010, with Kimotion

Hue Vietnam 2010

Hue Vietnam 2010