Influenced by DeFord Bailey and both Sonny Boy Williamsons on harp and Guitar Slim on axe while living in Houston, Wills sold one of his early compositions, "Dolly Bee," to Don Robey for Junior Parker's use on Duke Records before getting the itch to record himself. To that end, he set up Speed Records, his own label and source for the great majority of his output over the next dozen years.
The first version of "Flat Foot Sam" came out on a tiny Shreveport logo, Cliff Records, in 1957. Local record man Stan Lewis, later the owner of Jewel/Paula Records, reportedly bestowed the colorful nickname of TV Slim on Wills; he was a skinny television repairman, so the handle fit perfectly.
"Flat Foot Sam" generated sufficient regional sales to merit reissue on Checker, but its ragged edges must have rankled someone at the Chicago label enough to convince Slim to recut it in much tighter form in New Orleans with the vaunted studio band at Cosimo's. This time, Robert "Barefootin'" Parker blew a strong sax solo, Chess A&R man Paul Gayten handled piano duties, and Charles "Hungry" Williams laid down a brisk second-line beat. It became Slim's biggest seller when unleashed on another Chess subsidiary, Argo Records. Slim cut a torrent of 45s for Speed, Checker, Pzazz, USA, Timbre, Excell, and Ideel after that, chronicling the further adventures of his prime mealticket with "Flatfoot Sam Made a Bet," "Flat Foot Sam Met Jim Dandy," and "Flat Foot Sam #2." Albert Collins later covered Slim's Speed waxing of the surreal "Don't Reach Cross My Plate." Wills died in a car wreck outside Klingman, AZ, in 1969 en route home to Los Angeles after playing a date in Chicago. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi