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He was born in Cabaniss, Monroe County, Georgia, the cousin of Chuck Willis. He served in the military in the early 1950s before working as a chauffeur for Chuck Willis during his heyday. He won a talent show at the Magnolia Ballroom in Atlanta and made his first record in 1956, with the Ebb Records' single "You're Mine". Initially, he only sang, but learned guitar while touring with his cousin; Guitar Slim was one of his foremost influences.
After Chuck's death in 1958, Willis played with Elmore James, recording singles through the 1960s for Atco and other labels. His 1972 release, "Stoop Down Baby", was a jukebox hit but secured no radio airplay, due to its sexually explicit content. The song was one he had developed when working at a carnival show, where he would tease passers-by with ribald rhymes. Some of his later recordings reworked the song. He released a steady stream of albums on Ichiban Records in the 1980s and 1990s, and continued to record into the 2000s.
He died on December 7, 2013, aged 79.