We are excited to share our recent participation in the Gotham 2021 TV Series Lab. We were chosen as a team for the development of a musical biographical television series about forgotten Detroit singer, Little Willie John. Our development team has the shopping rights to the 2011 book, Fever: Little Willie John: A Fast Life, A Mysterious Death, and the Birth of Soul.
Little Willie John was one of the first Black American figures to use his incredible voice as a way out of poverty and created a roadmap that a generation of singers took to change the American music industry.
Everyone knows his most famous song: Fever. However, many do not know he is the originator of the song, as it would go on to be popularized by Peggy Lee. Still today, so many don’t know the Little Willie John story and why many prominent singers of that pivotal era in American music considered him the greatest voice of them all. We believe our series will not only illuminate a forgotten talent but also ask probing questions about struggles that still exist for current artists today. What happens when early success creates unrealistic personal expectations? How does an artist mature while maintaining a youthful connection with fans? How does a person with a precious gift weigh economic compensation for commercial music with efforts to maintain artistic integrity?
In the background, the series will also highlight the story of Detroit from 1941 - 1968. The series begins in the middle of World War II, with the city providing the manufacturing of what was then called the arsenal of democracy. At the same time, the Great Migration’s population explosion is laying seeds of tension that will cause two race riots, usher in a new era of segregation, and birth the phenomenon of Motown Records. Our story will show Detroit at the heights of its economic power and the ill-fated decisions that predicate its demise. The audience will also get to see the stories of many great performers who influenced Little Willie John and those he later influenced: including greats like, B.B. King, Dinah Washington, Duke Elllington, Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan and many more.
The creative team behind Fever | Little Willie John is Riley Jones, a lifelong singer, lawyer, and aficionado of the Black American songbook. Andrew Robert Colom, a writer and executive producer, based in Detroit, MI. Melissa O. Adeyemo, a Nigerian-American producer, with an international lens that helps broaden the team’s understanding of the audience for the project.
Fever | Little Willie John will tell the story of how a young man grew up in Detroit to overcome poverty and achieve the American Dream against all the odds, and how he came to pay the price for his success. Little Willie John’s story will illustrate how a group of singers and musicians in Detroit took the world by storm and created masterpieces of culture that still resonate today across the world.