Clifford Williams is a retired English musician who was a member of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC as their bassist and backing vocalist from 1977 to 2016. He had started his professional music career in 1967 and was previously in the British groups Home and Bandit. His first studio album with AC/DC was Powerage in 1978. The band, including Williams, was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Williams' side projects, while a member of AC/DC, include benefit concerts and playing with Emir & Frozen Camels on their album San (2002) and a European tour. In 2016, Williams announced his retirement from the music industry after AC/DC's Rock or Bust World Tour.
Clifford Williams was born in Romford, Essex, on the outskirts of London. The Williams family moved to Hoylake, near Liverpool, in 1961, where he was influenced by the local Merseybeat movement and decided to become a rock musician. At the age of 13, he and some friends formed a band. Williams has listed The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and blues musicians such as Bo Diddley as influences for his style. He mostly learned to play bass guitar by "listening to records and picking out notes", with formal training limited to some lessons from a professional Liverpool bassist. Williams left school when he was 16 years old, becoming an engineer by day and musician by night.
In 1966, Williams became a professional musician and moved back to London, where he worked at a demolition site and in supermarkets, and played in short-lived bands. Williams met guitarist Laurie Wisefield (later a member of Wishbone Ash), and the two became members of a band, Sugar, which soon broke up.
In 1970, Williams and Wisefield joined with singer Mick Stubbs, keyboardist Clive John and drummer Mick Cook to form the progressive rock group Home. The band signed a recording deal with Epic Records and issued their debut LP, Pause for a Hoarse Horse, in 1971. Home was a supporting act for Jeff Beck, Mott the Hoople, The Faces and Led Zeppelin. In 1972 Home released a self-titled album, featuring their only hit single, "Dreamer", which peaked at No. 41 in the UK album charts. Their next album, The Alchemist, followed in 1973, but did not gain chart success. When British folk singer-songwriter Al Stewart suggested that Home back him on his first American tour in March 1974, Mick Stubbs left the group. The rest of the members became the Al Stewart Band, but split up after the tour.
Williams briefly played with the American band Stars before forming Bandit in 1974. Bandit's line-up included vocalist Jim Diamond and drummer Graham Broad (later in Bucks Fizz and Roger Waters's band). The group signed with Arista Records and released a self-titled album in 1977. Bandit also performed as Alexis Korner's backing band on 1977's The Lost Album before disbanding later that year.
Williams considered retiring from music following Bandit's breakup, but one of the group's guitarists, Jimmy Litherland, convinced him to audition for the Australian group AC/DC, who were looking for a bassist after firing Mark Evans shortly after recording their 1977 studio album Let There Be Rock. AC/DC had formed in Australia in 1973 and by mid-1977 the line-up was Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar and backing vocals alongside his brother Angus Young on lead guitar, Phil Rudd on drums and Bon Scott on vocals. Shortly after deciding to audition for the band, Williams saw AC/DC on Top of the Pops and was impressed, describing them as "outrageous".
For his audition, Williams played four jam sessions with the band, and on 27 May 1977 was officially asked to join AC/DC. Angus declared the decision was partially motivated by the bassist's good looks, which the band hoped would attract more women to their concerts. As Williams was replacing an Australian musician, there were issues resulting in problems obtaining a work permit to enter the country. His first performances with AC/DC were in Australia supporting the Let There Be Rock album, with two secret gigs at Sydney's Lifesaver.
The album Powerage (1978), produced by Vanda & Young, marked Williams's studio debut. Williams remained in AC/DC from that time onwards until 2016, with only a temporary departure in 1991 as he suffered a kidney infection, during which Paul Greg had to play bass for some North American concerts in the Razors Edge World Tour. In addition to his role as bassist with AC/DC, Williams also contributed backing vocals. He has said that his favourite albums with the band are Powerage and Back in Black.
On 7 July 2016, Williams announced his plans to retire from the music industry following AC/DC's Rock or Bust World Tour, a tour whose final concert was set for September of that year. He cited his feeling that AC/DC was now "a changed animal" with the recent departures of several band members. Malcolm Young could no longer contribute due to dementia, Phil Rudd could not tour due to being under house arrest, and vocalist Brian Johnson was forced into retirement due to hearing problems.
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