Spencer Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He usually gave the dates as October 14, 1889, although he may have been older. Williams was reserved or contradictory in talking about his early life, perhaps because he grew up with underworld ties in the Storyville District.
Williams toured Europe with bands from 1925 to 1928; during this time he wrote for Josephine Baker at the Follies Bergere in Paris. Williams then returned to New York for a few years. In 1932 he moved to Europe for good, spending many years in London before moving to Stockholm in 1951 where he spent most of the rest of his life.
His hit songs included "I Ain't Got Nobody", "Royal Garden Blues", "Basin Street Blues", "Mahogany Hall Stomp", "I Found A New Baby", "Everybody Loves My Baby", "Squeeze Me", "Shimmy-Sha-Wobble", "Boodle Am Shake", and "Tishomingo Blues".