On Friday, September 2, 2011 the “Frankie Beverly and Maze Family” suddenly lost one of its dear brothers in one McKinley “Bug” Williams, he was 65. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Williams was a founding member of the Platinum-Selling R&B Group Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly, which was formally known as “Raw Soul” back in the early seventies.
The loss was a total shock to Frankie, the band, crew and support staff as the group had just recently arrived back at their hotel after a routine sound check for their concert that same night in Chattanooga, TN. Everyone who saw “Bug” that afternoon, as he was affectionately called, said that he was in good spirits and showed no apparent signs of any health issues. However when it came time for him to meet other band members downstairs in the hotel for lunch “Bug” didn’t come down nor did he call anyone. This raised concerns for the guys because that type of behavior was simply not “Bug’s Style”. He was a very conscientious man and always early for everything…. He would never willingly miss an appointed lobby-call time.
After repeated failed attempts to reach him via cell and hotel phone, band members Carl Wheeler and Larry Kimpel went up to his room to see about him. After knocking without any response from inside they opened the door and entered the room. There they found “Bug” lying in bed with the covers over him… he appeared to them to simply be asleep. Carl and Larry tried to stir “Bug” awake, but he was unresponsive. Thinking quickly, Carl called 911 while Larry continued to try and wake McKinley up. Carl also notified Frankie Beverly of the trouble who arrived at the room just moments later.
Emergency responders arrived on scene and ushered everyone else out of the room as they immediately began CPR procedures. Outside the room, other members of the Maze Family began to gather as they heard the surreal news. Healing prayers were offered up, as everyone stood hand-in-hand outside of the room asking God for a miracle.
After some time, the dedicated paramedics brought McKinley out of the room on a stretcher and took him quickly downstairs to a waiting ambulance. Once inside the vehicle, they continued to work on him as they traveled the one-mile distance to nearby Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. Upon arriving at the emergency room, doctors and nurses worked feverishly to revive him, but they too could get no response from his heart. During this time, Maze Tour Manager Marshall McIntyre worked tirelessly on the phone trying to notify McKinley’s Family of his condition, coordinate flights into Chattanooga for them, as well as dealing with the hospital staff. Meanwhile the family waiting room was filling up with Maze group and staff members including Frankie Beverly and Roame Lowry as everyone anxiously awaited any news of “Bug’s” condition.
At around 6:35pm the ER doctor assigned to the case came into the room where Maze was gathered together and proceeded to communicate the grave news… “We did everything we could to try and bring him back… But we’ve lost him! McKinley “Bug” Williams was a true showman… He loved the road, he loved people, and he loved to play music! He was the “Tambourine Man” as fans had come to know him. Everyone around the world who ever had the pleasure to know him and to experience his energy while performing onstage will feel his loss. His sometimes-hard exterior housed a golden soul that would do anything for you. He was the “Pappa Hen” to the rest of Maze. Always caring about if this one was on the van, or if that one had eaten yet. There are no real words to express the love this man gave out in his own unique way. The Maze hit song “Golden Time of Day” best sums it up with the lyric that says: “When you feel deep inside, all the love you’re looking for… Don’t it make you feel OK?” Well, the beauty in all this is that without a doubt, right now… McKinley “Bug” Williams is OK, and that truly is the “Golden Time of Day!” Bug would always say in his interviews “Maze is more than a group… It’s a family.
Burial will be in Philadelphia, PA. Donations can be made in his name to the American Heart Association, Donation Processing Center, File 30947, P.O. Box 60000, San Francisco, CA 94160. He is survived by a daughter Allison and a host of family and friends.