13 Best Mary Lou Williams Quotes from the American Jazz Pianist

Mary Lou Williams, an iconic jazz pianist, composer and arranger, was renowned for her swing and bebop styles.

Born in 1910, she quickly displayed a remarkable talent for the piano and started her career by playing at local parties.

Despite racial tensions, Williams’ abilities won her acclaim from all communities. Influenced by Jelly Roll Morton, Earl Hines and Fats Waller, Williams began her professional journey with a band during her teens.

Mary Lou Williams

Marrying John Williams in 1926, they later moved to Kansas City, expanding her reputation with jazz greats.

Known as “The Lady Who Swings the Band,” she displayed remarkable ability to blend styles with one hand while integrating harmonies and rhythms with the other.

After a short hiatus in the mid-1950s, Williams returned to performing and educating about jazz’s African American heritage.

Related: Alice Coltrane Quotes from American Jazz Musician and Chick Corea Quotes from the American Jazz Composer

She continued to compose, arrange and play until her death in 1981.

I have selected the famous quotes by Mary Lou Williams for you.

Best Mary Lou Williams Quotes


It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it. ~ Mary Lou Williams.


Anything you are shows up in your music – jazz is whatever you are, playing yourself, being yourself, letting your thoughts come through. ~ Mary Lou Williams.


Many people forget that Jazz, no matter what form it takes, must come from the heart as well as the mind. ~ Mary Lou Williams.


If you work on your talent, the plans will fall in automatically. ~ Mary Lou Williams.


I wonder what an agent would do if he had to travel with the band he’s booking. ~ Mary Lou Williams.

He explained how ridiculous the clowning was, and there and then I decided to settle down and play seriously. ~ Mary Lou Williams.

I have been tied up with music for about as long as I can remember. By the time I was four I was picking out little tunes my mother played on the reed organ in the living-room. ~ Mary Lou Williams.

Within a few hours I had them off, was about ready to play the shows. That night I opened, and during the week Harris was over to the house to talk my mother into letting me leave home. ~ Mary Lou Williams.

During the years I was with Andy Kirk we starved almost. I remember not eating for practically a month several times. But we were very, very happy because the music was so interesting, and you forgot to eat, anyway. ~ Mary Lou Williams.

Famous Mary Lou Williams Quotes

Offers for me to play dances, society parties, even churches, were now coming in regularly. For most dates I was paid the sum of one dollar per hour, and they always tipped me at the end of the night. ~ Mary Lou Williams.

One way and another I was having a ball – playing gigs, jamming and listening to fine musicians. Then came a crisis at home. My stepfather fell sick, and it meant I had to support the family. ~ Mary Lou Williams.

When Seymour saw me seated at the piano at that first rehearsal, he shouted: ‘What’s that kid doing here? Call your piano player and let’s get started.’ ~ Mary Lou Williams.

Quite a few musicians came to our house. And my ma took me to hear many more, hoping to encourage in me a love of music. But she wouldn’t consent to my having music lessons, for she feared I might end up as she had done – unable to play except from paper. ~ Mary Lou Williams.

So these were the 13 top Mary Lou Williams quotes and sayings.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Nikki Rowe quotes and Janelle Monae quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar