For Dre Williams, there wasn’t a time in his life when he wasn’t doing something musical. His father, who moved him from his hometown of Kansas City, Kansas, when he was still very young, was a professional musician and had a major influence on his young son. As an extremely talented lead guitarist, Wayne Williams was invited to tour with the renowned gospel group The Mighty Clouds of Joy when he was only 13 years old. Needless to say, none of his natural abilities were lost on Dre.
“I would always ask my dad to show me something on the guitar,” Dre said, “and one day he taught me how to play a standard blues walk. That was really the beginning of my career. I was about 7 years old then, and I started playing for people in my grandmother’s beauty salon. I would just sit and improvise on my dad’s guitar for hours and try to play songs I heard on the radio.”
Although Dre’s initial introduction to musical instrumentation was on the guitar, he quickly discovered that the drums were his first love. “I was one of those kids who would pick up anything around the house and make it into a drum kit,” Dre said. “The only difference was that I could actually make those pots and pans sound really good.”
By age 11, Dre was living in Ohio, and he had added the keyboard and bass guitar to his repertoire. He was also able to communicate well-enough musically that he began composing his own songs. Inspiration came from his mother’s record collection – from jazz great David Sanborn, to gospel legend John P. Kee and groundbreaking R&B group Tony Toni Tone. Dre also started playing professionally in local churches and landed his first recording job with Landa Reece Brown, a local Columbus gospel singer.
After moving back to Texas when he was 15, Dre expanded his musical scope by forming his own band, Vision. His local success and ever-increasing prowess on the drums led to his first major recording two years later with the gospel group Perfect Praise. That job led to work with other artists on the group’s label, World Wide Records, including Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson, E. Stewart and the Stewart Singers and Damascus. Excited by the possibilities of working consistently in the music industry, Dre packed up everything and moved to Atlanta. That decision would prove to be life-changing.
“I was hustling in Atlanta, trying to make money selling pizza coupons door-to-door, and I ran into Shamora Crawford, a songwriter who was currently working for Sony,” said Dre. “At that point, I really just wanted to be a full-time session musician, and God used her to encourage me to pursue producing. The seed was already in me, and she watered it. She taught me the foundations of producing and the elements of a track. I called my god brother, and he bought me my first recording equipment.”
With the dream of producing alive and well in his heart, Dre headed back to his roots in Kansas City to perfect his craft. “I had been around gospel music for so long, and I really respected Asaph Ward,” said Dre. I knew he lived in my hometown, so I decided to try and hook up with him.”
In 2000, Dre did, in fact, meet the uber-successful producer with credits on just about every major gospel artist. It was while working with him that he learned how to produce each element of a song, including individual instruments. Ward also provided him with opportunities to record and/or tour with several major gospel artists.
“Although I was focusing more on producing at that time, I was, and am, still a musician at heart. I never gave up my love of playing the drums,” Dre said. “Naturally, I jumped at the chance to record with Smokie Norful and Brent Jones and be able to tour with Dorinda Clark.”
Around this time, Dre also cultivated other working relationships that enabled him to continue to grow and mature as a producer. He spent time working with Ernest “Bishop” Dixon, songwriter for R&B artists Joe, Ginuwine and Profyle, as well as Falonte Moore, hit producer for Destiny’s Child and Will Smith.
“I have learned so much from everyone that I’ve worked with over the years, and it is all of those collective experiences that make me the producer and musician that I am today,” Dre said. “I know that God was preparing me for what I was created to do.”
Dre also became a staple of the Kansas City music scene, as a producer of local artists and drummer fronting the highly successful jazz/R&B/funk bands Vibe and Tru Soul. As a result, Dre was regularly featured in some of Kansas City’s most renowned venues, including The Blue Room and The Gem Theater in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District.
One of Dre’s most rewarding projects in Kansas City was the development of the Urban Music Study-O, a music education program that utilizes a recording studio format and current chart-topping songs to teach basic music concepts to middle and high school-aged students while giving them an inside look at the recording industry.
“For as long as I can remember it has been my desire to work with kids,” Dre said. “I grew up in the inner city, and I am a living testament to the power and positive impact of music.”
Most recently Dre relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, with aspirations of continuing to push his career to the next level. Within one month of his arrival in Music City he became an in-house producer at The Sound Kitchen, one of Nashville’s largest and most prestigious recording studios. Dre was also asked to become the new drummer for the Tyrone Smith Revue, one of the southeast’s most popular and successful show bands. And, every Sunday, Dre can be found at Born Again Church (home to gospel legend CeCe Winans and the Dove Award-winning and Grammy nominated choir, the BAC Senior Minstrels) as a full-time staff musician.
“It’s amazing to see how God has been opening doors for me and giving me opportunities that I never could have hoped for,” said Dre. “I know that there is so much more in store for me, and I can’t wait to see where He leads me!”
2002: “Midnite” – Beautiful (Brent Jones and the T.P. Mobb/EMI)
2003: “Worthy” – Free (Virtue/Verity)
2003: Dorinda Clark-Cole Live DVD (Dorinda Clark-Cole/GospoCentric)
2004: “Continuous Grace” – Nothing Without You (Smokie Norful/EMI)
2008: The Experience (L.B./Independent)