Meet Baby Face Willette, a nationally historic jazz artist with Milwaukee ties

Meet Baby Face Willette, a nationally historic jazz artist with Milwaukee ties

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This week on Urban Spelunking, we’re taking a slightly different approach as we work remotely.

Instead of talking about a place or building that’s closed to the public, we’re “spelunking” a person, a nationally known jazz organist with Milwaukee ties.

“Baby Face” Willette — a nickname the artist earned with his youthful smile and snappy outfits — released two records on the prestigious Blue Note Records. He spent much of his career in Chicago, but while in Milwaukee, he met his wife and collaborated with various local artists.

Baby Face Willette. Photo via OnMilwaukee.

Active in the 1950s and ’60s, Baby Face’s career was cut short by various legal and personal problems, and he died young, at age 35.

OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo spent months researching Baby Face’s career and legacy, and he wrote a special edition piece for OnMilwaukee detailing his life in music and photos. Take a deep dive into his career after listening to this week’s podcast below.

James Julius Anderson, an artist formerly based in Milwaukee, shared this photo depicting his uncle playing alongside Baby Face on piano.
88Nine Radio Milwaukee