Williams & Ree

Laughter, at anyone's expense, is one of the main elements of a Williams & Ree show.
The two, known as "The Indian & The White Guy," have been spreading their own brand of music and mirth for over three decades.

Terry Ree, aka "The Indian," and Bruce Williams, aka "The White Guy," have entertained audiences in nightclubs, casinos, and on concert stages, opening for such acts as the Oak Ridge Boys, Randy Travis and Garth Brooks.
They have also frequently appeared on television, beginning most notably with the Nashville Now talk/variety show in the mid-80s. A stint as comedic co-hosts on Florence Henderson's Country Kitchen, as well as the Charlie Daniels Talent Roundup, followed, with all three programs on The Nashville Network (TNN).
The pair were also seen during the final seasons of the venerable syndicated country music/comedy program, Hee Haw, in the early 90s.

(Courtesy Sonic Sorbet Productions)

Ree, of Pierre, South Dakota, and Williams, of Mountain Home, Idaho, first met while both were college students in the late 60s. They began to play together in a band, although they quickly learned that their between-song humor and song parodies were more popular with audiences, and they became a comedy duo, arriving in Los Angeles by the mid-70s, performing frequently at the famed Comedy Store.
The TNN appearances began later, and the two recorded a series of independently-released albums, such as Taking Reservations and Feed And Mingle With Live Indians. Their latest CD, released by Sonic Sorbet Productions, is Indian Casino Royale, a collection of original songs.

The two have also released several videos, primarily taken from their nightclub act.
The following interview took place after a performance at the Choctaw Indian Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in July of 1995. With these two, the best thing for the interviewer to do is begin the conversation - and get out of the way.

How long have the two of you been together?

Ree: Actually, say, we started 27 years ago.
Williams: And, I knew he was gonna get a government grant, so I'm hanging in there with him.
Ree: That's right.

(Laughs) Twenty-seven years?

Ree: Yes. 1968. Actually, the fall of 1968, (in announcer's voice) as they attended Black Hills State College, Spearfish, South Dakota.
Williams: I was walking to class one day, he was hiding behind a bush. (He) jumped out and tomahawked me.
Ree: Tomahawked him. Gave him the "tomahawk chop," and, mind you, this was 27 years ago, long before these people in Atlanta (Braves baseball fans) ever heard of it.
Williams: That's right. And it wasn't even the "tomahawk chop," it was a hawk, named Bonnie.
Ree: That's right.

You actually started as musicians, and then the comedy came after that?

Ree: Exactly. How would you have ever guessed that?
Williams: He also said the musicianship has never developed, either.
Ree: (Laughs) Yes, he did. Yes, we started singin' and playin', and, actually, I'll tell you how we started the comedy. We never knew any songs. In fact, we've been together 27 years, we probably know five songs.
Williams: Sort of the Jason D. Williams of comedy.(NOTE: Jason D. Williams is a pianist/singer often compared to the young Jerry Lee Lewis. -- T.W.)
Ree: Exactly.

(Laughs) So, that's it.

Ree: We never finish a song, and we talk about why we didn't, and why we should have. And that's how the comedy started.

How did the act develop into what it is now?

Ree: Exactly.
Williams: We don't know.
Ree: Exactly that way. We've started ... I've always been proud of my Indian heritage, and he, of course, has always chided me, and that's how the act began and that's what we've been doing for 27 years. Dammit!
Williams: (Laughs) It's that much fun.

Do you have any parameters as to ...

Ree: Absolutely no parameters.
Williams: We have parameters when it comes to ...
Ree: Alright, anything that has more than four chords in a song and we can't play it.
Williams: Yeah, and what we wear must be specifically made for us.
Ree: Yeah. Tent and awning, usually.

There are no limits, as to, "No, we can't do that; that goes too far."

Ree: Oh, no.
Williams: Oh, well ... Oh, no, John, (whiney voice) Nooooo, John. We wouldn't do anything offensive.
Ree: No. We don't offend anyone.
Williams: There are people who don't like us, sure, but that's gonna happen with comedy.
Ree: Some people find what we do distasteful, but we certainly don't.
Williams: We don't really care what the wives think.

How did the association with TNN start?

Williams: We just basically went down there, begged and groveled, and said, (mock crying) "Put us on the air!"
Ree: That's exactly what we did. We went down there and we auditioned for the Ralph Emery show, the Nashville Now show, and they said, "Oh, come on; we can use you." So, they thought they would just use us once or twice, but, no, we moved to Nashville. And sucked up like they've never been ...
Williams: (Laughs) That was 35 years ago.
Ree: No.
Williams: Three to five years ago.
Ree: (Laughs) It was maybe, ten or eleven years ago, and ...
Williams: Eleven years ago. Ralph was, like, twelve.
Ree: That's right.

And then the cooking show came along.

Williams: The cooking show was a fluke.
Ree: Fell out of the blue.
Williams: We had a week, out of the height of the summer that we couldn't book, and during that week we got a phone call saying, "Come on to Nashville, we want you to be on a cooking show." So, it just fell right out of the sky.
Ree: It's just that simple; that's how it happened. And it worked for eight years.
Williams: And to this day, Florence Henderston ... Henderston ...
Ree: Yeah. Not Florence Henderson, Florence Henderston.
Williams: Yes. She visits the Indian regularly, on occasion, and brings a truckload of Wesson oil.
Ree: I mean, I gave her all I had, several times.
Williams: Yes.
Ree: In the way of cooking tips.
Williams: Yes. Cooking tips.

Do either one of you actually cook?

Ree: Absolutely!
Williams: Oh, we ... he is a gourmet chef, and I'm a ...
Ree: I'm a gourmet.
Williams: He's a gourmet.
Ree: I make a mean Caesar's salad, that's my favorite. And I can grill steak, and that's about it.
Williams: Unusual Caesar's salad, too. It has squirrel pelts in it.
Ree: Yes. (Laughs)
Williams: You can floss while you're eating.
Ree: Yes, and it's not Romaine, it's Rogaine lettuce.
Williams: (Laughter) Rogaine lettuce.
Ree: Rogaine lettuce.

How can you two stay such close friends when you spend so much time together? Does the act ever interfere with the friendship?

Ree: We're not close friends.
Williams: We're not close friends. Oh, sure, we live across the street from each other.
Ree: It's a bad marriage; it's purely financial. If I could dump the fat bastard, I'd get rid of him.
Williams: (Laughs)
Ree: (Laughs)
Williams: How many times have I put out those fires from those darn arrows?
Ree: It's a job, and we enjoy it.

Well, when you're not working, do you hang around together?

Williams: No.
Ree: Oh, occasionally we show up and the same bar and fall on the floor ...
Williams: (Laughs)
Ree: (Laughs)

I guess, primarily, you work a lot of fairs and package tours with a lot of country artists?

Ree: We do. We do lots of those, and we also do lots of things on our own. And we do ... (someone opened the door to the room) Dammit! We're doing an interview here! What the hell ...
Williams: Boy, these reservation cops are tough.
Ree: That was a white guy.
Williams: I know. He slipped through. Had real high cheekbones.
Ree: I know. What was the question?

Working with country acts.

Ree: Oh, yes. We do a lot of these, but we also do a lot on our own. In fact, what, probably 60 percent is on our own. The greatest thing that happened to us is Indian casinos.
Williams: They're all over the nation. It really helps to have an Indian in the group.
Ree: (Laughs) Yes, and we go there. (Mock cough) John, would you like another cigarette?

I didn't take my sinus medicine today.

Ree: Ah, the old sinus problem.

By the way, who's John?

Ree: I don't know; he called you John.
Williams: I thought your name was John. What is your name?


Ree: Tom.
Williams: Tom.
Both: Tom, Tom, farmer's son
Stole a pig and away he run
He'll be miserable the rest of his life
'Cause the pig he stole was my ex-wife.


Ree: Tom.
Williams: It's good to be here, Tom. I thought it was John.
Ree: No, you were wrong.
Williams: Well, I first met him near the john, that's what happened.
Ree: (Laughs)

Where does the material come from?

Ree: Just like this, Tom. You mention a name and we've got a limerick. And that's what we do.
Williams: It's a lot of ad-libbing. AD-LIBBING.
Ree: It's probably 2 percent ad-libbing and 98 percent, we've done it before.
Williams: Right. For 27 years.


Ree: We remember everything we've ever heard.
Williams: And if you say something creative, we'll remember that, too.
Ree: You're damn right we will. Tom.
Williams: That will be part of the show, John.
Ree: (Laughs) It's Tom.
Williams: Tom.

Who was your inspiration, as comedians?

Ree: Rowan and Martin and the Smothers Brothers.
Williams: Mmm-hmm. And, of course, U2, and Michael and Janet Jackson.
Ree: And the Beatles, and Elvis.
Williams: And Johnny Cash.
Ree: Johnny Cash.
Williams: (in British accent) Johnny Cash, actually, and ...
Ree: Buck Owens.
Williams: Mel Tillis. George Jones.

Well, you met (former Nashville producer/songwriter) Bob Ferguson tonight; I think he worked with Cash, at some time or other.

Williams: He worked with John?
Ree: He also wrote,
Both: (singing) On the wings of a snow white dove
He sends his pure sweet love
A sign from above, on the wings of a dove.
Ree: (in Johnny Cash voice) Sing it, June.
Williams: (in female voice, singing) When troubles attack me ...
Ree: (in Cash voice) Shut up, June (laughs).

You ever worked with him?

Ree: Yes. Yes, we've had that pleasure. He lives just down the street from me. But he seldom stops by (laughs).
Williams: Once in a while, you'll hear a limo put up, and you'll hear, (in Cash voice) (coughs) "Indian, you want a ride?"

So, you live out at Hendersonville?

Ree: Yes.
Williams: Yes.
Ree: We live just around the corner. He lives just down the river, and I live just across the street from him.
Willliams: He has the highest house. Indian able to overlook all residents ...
Ree: I'm able to look down on all the white people.
Williams: Even Johnny has to look up to Indian.
Ree: That's right.

Have you ever gotten any flak from Native Americans over the humor?

Williams: Not flak, no.
Ree: Very little; very little. In fact, the only time we had any problem was back in '73, '74 with the AIM movement ...
Williams: I was stabbed a couple of times.
Ree: And, of course, they usually are out of line themselves. (Laughs) A little too much party, but, really, we've never had any problem. Indians are the first to laugh, and laugh the hardest, and the longest. Mainly at the white guy 'cause he's a funny boy.
Williams: A couple of the Choctaw guys tied me up backstage and gave me a hot Mylanta enema.

Doesn't look like it helped much.

Ree: (Laughs)
Williams: (Laughs)

Do you have any ultimate plans, like would you like to do a movie?

Ree: We'd love to do a movie.
Williams: Yeah.
Ree: We'd love to have a natural hit song, played on the radio. We do our own independent labels and we've had many ... How many have we done, ten or 12?
Williams: Eleven.
Ree: We've done 11 albums, and we just sell 'em where we go, and nothing has ever been charted. But, that would be cool. We got nominated, you know, as Vocal Duo of the Year, and we're not in the finals yet, but it was just a thrill to be in there with all those big guys.
Williams: Yeah.
Ree: And a movie would be nice, but, basically I'm just tryin' to get a little cash together, and play golf the rest of my life.
Williams: Maybe we can do the sequel to Indian In The Cupboard.
Ree: What would that be called?
Williams: Called Brave In The Closet.
Ree: (Laughs) There's too many white guys in the closet now.
Williams: (Laughs) Yes, that's why you gotta be brave.

Does the humor seem to work better in certain parts of the country, or is the response pretty much the same?

Ree: You know, it really is pretty much the same, wherever we go. Because, truly, Tom, we have done the same act for 27 years. I mean, that's what we do. And we don't change it for the people in New Jersey or Connecticut or ... They get the same show that you get in Mississippi or California. That's what we do. Funny is funny.


Williams: Some of it varies from tribe to tribe. We told a couple of Sioux jokes tonight that didn't go over well. The Sioux are not that well known around here. This is the Choctaw habit.

I saw some people tonight that might be Siouxish.

Williams: Funny, they didn't look Siouxish.
John, this has been great.
Ree: Tom.
Williams: Tom.

Tom, John, whatever. Thanks, guys.

Ree: Thank you, Tom.
Williams: Tom.

Website: www.williamsandree.com