Our much adored customer and friend Mr. Williams passed away yesterday, October 14, 2009. Here, we, the staff of Amoeba, celebrate his life and our lasting bond with this special man.
Mr. Williams was the quintessential Amoeba presence. Not just a customer (although he was our favorite), but also a spirit-lifting, gift-giving friend.
Mr Williams loved music. He loved Soul Music, from classic to current, from Ray Charles and Etta James to Gerald Levert and Mary J. Blige. He would find out about the newest independent release by a Johnnie Taylor or a Blue Magic, and let us know that we needed to have them.
Mr. Williams was incredibly generous, known to buy popsicles and drumsticks and ice cream sandwiches for the entire staff on particularly warm days. He was also known to give copies of a CD or loan a DVD of classic Sly Stone or James Brown performances.
He always had a good word for you, always made you smile, made you feel like you were in the right business.
His first name was Leslie, and he will be missed.
"Mr. Williams" was in Amoeba the day we opened in Berkeley, in November 1990, and almost every day for 7 years, until we opened our San Francisco store, which, conveniently, happened to be RIGHT BEHIND his home!!! From that point on, his daily visits were mainly at that store, though he still somehow continued to visit us in Berkeley and continued to add to his already amazing collection of music... as our #1 BEST CUSTOMER, we invited him down to help us celebrate the opening of our new Hollywood store on November 17th, 2001. HE CUT THE RIBBON FOR US, as thousands of new customers poured in!! Quite an honor for him, but even more so for us....This beautiful man brought so much joy to our workplace; we are forever deeply grateful for his presence in our lives. Wherever you are now, Mr. Williams, please know that we will NEVER forget you, and will always be inspired by your love for music and your beautiful spirit.
Mr. Leslie Williams was a proper gentleman. I enjoyed his style [the Count Basie captain's hat, a cravat, hounds tooth checked or navy blue jacket] and his warm avuncular presence. Mr. Williams, while shopping in my section, would regale me with tales about the Fillmore of the 40's & 50's, of seeing Lowell Fulson, Muddy Waters, Bobby Freeman and many more. Moments like that were as golden as they come. It's what's always been the joy for me in this job, getting the word from those who had been there, saw the greats, schooled you, and listened to you in return. It was like that for me in Detroit, and Mr. Williams became the West Coast music history teacher. This has the greatest place in my heart about what it means to work in a record store: meeting people, exchanging sounds, and learning from each other. To meet men like Mr. Leslie Williams. Thank you, sir.
When I first met Mr. Williams I thought he was some famous person cause of the way he carried himself and how he was always, always dipped (sharply dressed). Typically you’d think someone like that would be the kind of person that you could only get a wave or a nod from. But he was the opposite of that. He made it a point to smile, shake your hand, and see how you were doing. He'd greet me with a "what's goin on?" At times it was as if he could sense when I may not have been in the best of spirits and have me talk about something I liked to make me feel better about myself. I'm gonna always hear his voice tell me at the end of conversations…"don't work too hard now..." I'm going to miss him. He's the kind of person that whether you knew him well or barely knew him, you'll never forget him...R.I.P. Mr. Williams...."alright, you take care now..."
My lasting memory of Mr. Williams will be the energy he carried with him at all times; even when walking with a cane seemed to be a lot of effort, he always had a smile for you and would always stop to have a chat about music, the weather, how you were feeling, or whatever. Seeing him would always brighten my day, even just the slightest bit. My favorite memory of Mr. Williams will be the outfits he would wear on the Fourth of July. He'd have a red, white and blue sequined suit that shimmered in even low light, and he looked much like James Brown singing "Living in America" -- patriotic, looking and feeling his best, proud, gleaming. I'll miss him, and I'll always associate him with better days, a better time, and the best people I've ever met.
Mr. Williams was a big part of Amoeba. He was, in a way, our spirit. He always brought the energy up, whether he was bringing us popsicles on a hot day or just passing through and taking the time to chat with us. I remember once when it rained, he had the most amazing yellow striped rain boots! He truly was a character, and someone none of us will forget.
Mr. Williams was/is one of the kindest souls that will ever walk through the red doors at Amoeba SF. He was always dressed to the 9's, always had encouraging things to say...I was there the day he cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony for the Hollywood store -- his presence made the day that much more special, and I think one of the more touching moments we all shared was during the SF heatwave a few years back, when he bought the ENTIRE staff ice cream! Rest In Peace, dear friend, you will be missed...
When I first started working here, everyone talked about Mr. Williams, how he was such a great person, who loved his music and cared for the staff like they were his family. He always displayed such kindness to everyone. And the staff appreciated this so much about him.
At the registers there has always been the special Mr. Williams' infinity hold bag. Employees always kept their eyes open for music that he might want or need or might not have realized that he wanted or needed, but it was always there for him when he came in. He is the only person who has ever had an infinity hold and will be the only person who will ever have one here in SF.
Forever a member of the Amoeba family, he will be missed.
Mr. Williams was a man that could really wear a hat. I loved seeing Leslie Williams' outfits (which were always coordinated head to toe and to the occasion), but I really loved seeing him. Mr. Williams was always kind and courteous, an Amoeba fixture and a community icon, and customers and employees alike were always delighted to see him. We chatted regularly (I worked in the sections he shopped the most, and we shared a love for the same music), but mostly we had jokes. My favorite running joke started the year Mr. Williams had a foot out of commission about the time of the Amoeba holiday party (which he attended every year). We kept teasing each other about which one of us was going to kick off the dance contest at the party. I would never take Mr. Williams' protestations about his foot seriously, saying I knew he still had moves even on one foot! Then I would demonstrate various one-legged moves I thought he could implement. Mr. Williams and I would then laugh uproariously every time. It never got old. Long after his foot healed, we were talking about the dance contest and I was making a fool of myself in the middle of the store just to hear him laugh.
Such a bummer...Watching him cut the ribbon on opening day brought tears to my eyes...
I didn't get to interact with him too often, but when I did, he treated me with more respect than almost
any other customer. He was always in a good mood. He was there with a smile, and of course the sharpest dressed man this side of ZZ Top. I spoke with him very briefly on the telephone a few weeks ago and let him know that we miss him. It makes me glad that he heard that. I do think of him often, and will continue to do so.
Mr. Williams was a true gentleman. I only knew him thru our interactions at Amoeba; I wish I could have known him better. His sweet demeanor made him so loveable. And boy, could that man dress, always made me smile to see him. He will be greatly missed.
I met Mr. Williams at Streetlight Records when I worked there in the 90s. He came in almost every other day with a smile, a joke and kind words that we could count on. It was a small space and he always brightened it. We used to set aside new stuff from our promo buys, the new Brian McKnight or a new live Earth Wind and Fire that we knew he would want. We always thought that we were ahead of the game, that he would be so surprised, but often he would graciously tell us, "thank you, but I've already got that." We always wondered where he'd found these things -- no internet then -- but he never said. When I came to work at Amoeba, the store had been open less than a year but I found out right away that Mr. Williams was already Customer #1! I guess that all those years he was shopping at Rasputin or ...wherever, but he made our little store on Market Street feel like we were his only source for the good stuff.
Mr. Williams was from Waco, Texas, and, in a way, he was old-school, but it seemed to me that he embraced the Bay Area in all its weirdo glory. He never looked askance at the punk rocker or transvestite or anyone different shopping next to him. He connected with anyone in a love for music. Plus, he could out-dress them all!!
I don't have just one memory of Mr. Williams, more of a montage. Every time he came into Amoeba he was ALWAYS well-dressed. This gentleman had more style, charisma & charm in his pinky finger than most of us will ever have or experience. He was a "throwback" or "old school," but more fresh than the freshest of our present times. Nothing about him seemed "put upon;" in other words, the man did not make much effort to be as cool as he will remain in my mind. He was there when they were inventing "cool." I think I even told him once, "when I grow up, I wanna be as cool as you are Mr. Williams." To which he smiled and said, "you already are." Straight class.
Mr. Williams usually made it just into the front door of Amoeba before he was shaking hands, smiling & chatting with everyone he knew in the place (which was just about everyone) & if he didn't know you, that was just a matter of time. I mean, seriously, the man was THE MAYOR. We get a lot of regulars here at Amoebowl but to everyone here who spent any amount of time chatting with him about music, his stories about the neighborhood (he lived just around the corner for many years), or just checking in with you about what was going on in your life, he was always an ABSOLUTE PLEASURE to be around. The man exuded a simple joy that was contagious. There would be times chatting with him at the buy counter that I would have to remind myself that there were other customers waiting for my help and excuse myself. Even as time started to take its toll on his body, Mr. Williams never seemed to let it invade his mind, never seemed too bothered by it, just accepting...saying something like, "well, it just takes me a little longer to get where I need to go." Well, sir, wherever you are going I hope and pray you are in peace. Eternal. See you again, Mr. Williams. I'll bring the music.
My condolences go to his family. My thoughts are with you.
I loved seeing Mr. Williams at the store. He always had a smile and kind thought for me. The words that come to mind when I think of him are style, class, and grace. It was so awesome when he helped opened the Hollywood store; I couldn't think of a better kick off! It was a pleasure and an honor to know him. Whenever there is good music happening, his spirit will be there. Rest in peace my friend.
I encountered Mr. Williams at Amoeba Berkeley right before we opened our San Francisco store. He was ecstatic that an Amoeba was literally opening in his back yard, where he shared a parking lot with us. Of course, this didn't stop him from continuing to make the pilgrimage to Berkeley on the nights he didn't shop at the S.F. store. To this day he has an ongoing hold bag with items that didn't make the cut on a particular day, and that he would usually purchase the following evening. His tastes ran from soul to jazz with some gospel thrown in, too. He'd ask me if I had heard a particular CD, or tell me about an album that I needed to hear.
He dressed immaculately, was color coordinated and looked like a million bucks. He always had a good word for everyone, and was beloved by the entire staff.
RIP Mr. Williams, you are already missed.
Haiku for Mr. WIlliams
Farewell, Mr. Williams
Hope there's a good
Tailor up there in Heaven
Services for Mr Williams were held this past weekend.