Morning music: “Rock the Boat”


When I worked at Saturn on an assembly line for 10 hours a day, we used to play games that we made up to break the monotony and stave off the boredom. One of them was calling out the name of a song or hearing a song on the radio and whoever called out the name of the song and the singer/band, would win that round. I got pretty good at it. One day an old favorite of mine started playing. The name of the song was “Rock the Boat.” It was recorded by the Hues Corporation. I won that round. The man who was captain of the team upstream from me came over and asked about the song and the band, and we talked a little bit about it. Then he asked me if I knew the names of the band members. I didn’t have a clue. Bill rattled them off right away. One of the names was Fleming Williams.

“Do you know who Fleming Williams is?” he asked again.

“No, I have no idea,” I said.

“That’s Fleming Williams, right there,” he said, pointing to a really skinny man working upstream just a little way.

“No, you are kidding! Get outta here!” I laughed.

“No, really, that’s Fleming Williams, and he won a gold record for that song,” Bill continued. It was true, the man working just a couple of yards away was really the lead singer in the group that sang one of the best songs of the seventies. You just never think of people who win gold records working on a GM Assembly line!

The Hues Corporation

Before achieving mainstream success they were the opening act for a list of headliners that included Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Nancy Sinatra and Glen Campbell. The original band had a lineup of three singers and three sidemen. The sidemen were Joey Rivera from the Checkmates, Monti Lawston and Bob "Bullet" Bailey, formerly of the Leaves. Bailey, Rivera and Lawston left the band to form Goodstuff.

The group's name was a pun on the Howard Hughes Corporation, with the 'hue' (a synonym of 'color'), being a nod to the group members' African-American heritage. The band's members were St. Clair Lee (born Bernard St. Clair Lee, April 24, 1944, San Francisco, California; died 2011), Fleming Williams (born 1943, Flint, Michigan; died 1990s) and Hubert Ann Kelley (born April 24, 1947, Fairfield, Alabama). The original choice for the group's name was The Children of Howard Hughes, which their record label turned down.
Fleming Wiliams died in the 1990s. Many sources claim the date of his death was September 1992, but other sources claim he died in February 1998. According to the Social Security Death Index, Fleming Williams died on February 15, 1998. His death has been attributed to a "long illness," although many others have also alluded to a long struggle with drugs.