Last year, after a stay in a hospital, he told an interviewer, ''Everybody's got to die for himself. No, I ain't afraid of dying. If I don't get well, it's just as well I died.
View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. Improvised 'Angola Prison Blues' Mr. In , he moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and worked in a lumberyard.
At the age of 20, Williams fashioned a crude guitar by attaching five copper strings to a cigar box,  and soon after bought a cheap, mass-produced one. He began to play for small events such as Church gatherings, fish fries, suppers, and dances.
From the s to the s, Williams played music and continued to work in the lumberyards of Baton Rouge. He was discovered by ethnomusicologists Dr Harry Oster and Richard Allen in Louisiana State Penitentiary , where he was serving a life sentence for fatally shooting a man in a nightclub in , an act which he claimed was in self-defense. Under pressure from Oster, the parole board issued a pardon, and commuted his sentence to 12 years. In December , he was released into 'servitude parole', which required 80 hours of labor per week on a Denham Springs farm without due compensation, and only room and board provided.
This parole prevented him from working in music, though he was able to occasionally play with Butch Cage and Willie B.
Thomas at Thomas's home in Zachary. By this time, Williams' music was becoming popular, and he played at the Newport Folk Festival. In he also toured Europe.