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Local couple turns their love for BBQ into a Milwaukee business

"When you come in here, you come in as a friend, but you leave as family."
WC's Rhythm and Blues.jpg
Posted at 4:55 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 17:59:26-04

W.C's Rhythm and Blues is located on 12th and Wright in Milwaukee. Behind this fence, Willie Coleman aka "Baby Back Willie" is busy doing what he does best...barbecuing.

He and his wife Wanetta aka "Ms. Baby Back" have been married for nearly 40 years and they've been in business for a little over two months.

"We're a community tavern that treats everybody like family. When you come in here, you come in as a friend, but you leave as family," said Wanetta

"We wanna speak to the community and show them a nice time," added Willie.

The building itself has a long history.

"Over 50 years of three people having this bar," said Willie.

Original owner Leedale Kern is thrilled that his friend is keeping the tradition alive.

"Baby Back Willie, he's a friend of mine for a lot of years and he's really doing this. He improved it and I love what he done to it," said Kern.

Willie, a native of Holly Springs in Mississippi, learned the technique of grilling when he was just a child.

"My uncle and 'em taught us how to barbecue. We were just kids, so this is like a generation of family--brought up in me," said Willie.

And while barbecue is synonymous with the Fourth of July, culinary historian Adrian Miller notes in his recent book "Black Smoke" that Black and indigenous people have contributed to everything from the cooking process, seasoning and sides.

Needless to say, it's those things, plus Willie's love for the community that keeps people coming back. Linda White has been a customer for many years and even met her husband here.

"You know, you always come to a neighborhood and you think this isn't a good place to be, but when you're around people that are strong, hard-working and watch each other's backs, you know have been friends for 50, 60, 70 years, it's pretty amazing," said White.

The friendships are evident.

"I've been coming here for 30 years", said customer Robert Sain. Carolyn Hierrezuelo is also a longtime customer.

"Baby Back gives back to the community. That's what I like about it, you've got to give to receive", said Hierrezuelo.

Juanita Williams has lived in the neighborhood since 1953.

"I've know him for a very very long time. I'm extremely proud of him and his family to see this," said Williams.

Willie has catered for the Brewers, Superbowl Champ Gilbert Brown's football camps and a long list of others, but he and his wife agree...the Fourth of July is always extra special.

"You can't have the Fourth of July without barbecue, it goes hand in hand," said Wanetta.

For those of you planning to grill this weekend, here's a tip!

"My uncle always said, when you cook a baby back, you're supposed to take a baby back. When it's done, you shake it. When it cracks, it's done."

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