Mary Lou Williams was born into a poor neighborhood in Atlanta and grew up in a family with eleven children on in East Liberty, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Her mother was a cleaning lady, but in her spare time sang spirituals and ragtime played on harmonium. On her third or fourth to play Mary Lou began after what she had heard from her mother and taught himself how to play. Later she played the music of Jelly Roll Morton and James p. Johnson after. When she was about six years she performed in public, they accompanied silent films and played on parties at rich people, putting them in Pittsburgh known as ' the little piano girl of East Liberty '. They not only played ragtime, but also, for example, light classical music, marches and waltzes.
When she was thirteen she replaced a pianist in an itinerant vaudevilleshow. She learned here the saxophonist John Williams, leader of the group know the pianist James P. Johnson, and married him when she was sixteen. The Group of Williams, with Mary Lou Williams on piano, the backing group of a dance duo act and also made some recordings. In 1929 John Williams accepted an invitation from his bandleader Andy Kirkto group play. Mary Lou Williams followed her husband until later, when Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy could play in a long time ballroom in Kansas.
Williams worked with and for the greatest jazz musicians of her time and could sustain more than between these male heavyweights. She wrote and composed, among others, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, was mentor to Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker and played with Andy Kirk and diverse musicians as Cecil Taylorand. Her music went along with the changes in time and sometimes even walked in there on forward.
In 2004 she was posthumously inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
78-rpm record of Mary Lou Williams, "The Pearls" from 1938*Mary Lou Williams 1927-1940, Classics
- Mary Lou Williams 1944, Classics
- Mary Lou Williams 1944-1945, Classics
- Mary Lou Williams 1945-1947, Classics
- Mary Lou Williams 1949-1951, Classics
- Mary Lou Williams 1951-1953, Classics
- Mary Lou Williams 1953-1954, Classics
- The Zodiac Suite, Vintage Jazz Classics, 1945
- Jazz Variations, Stinson, 1950
- With Barbara Carroll, Atlantic, 1951
- Mary Lou Williams Trio, Atlantic, 1951
- The First Lady of the Piano, Inner City, 1953
- In London, GNP, 1953
- On Vogue (with Don Byas), Vogue, 1953
- Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes, Folkways Recordings, 1964
- Music for Peace, Mary Records, 1964
- From the Heart, Chiaroscuro, 1970
- Zoning, Folkways Recordings, 1974
- Free Spirits, SteepleChase, 1975
- Live at the Cookery, Chiaroscuro, 1975
- My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me, OJC, 1977
- Solo Recital-Montreux Jazz Festival 1978, OJC, 1979
- At Rick's Cafe Americain, Storyville, 1979
- Live at the Keystone Korner (recordings 1977), High Note, 2002
- Linda Dahl: Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams, University of California Press, 1999