Although high-profile session pros such as Larry Carlton and Phil Upchurch played on what was to be Jackson's 1979 commercial breakthrough album, Off The Wall, it was David Williams, plucked from obscurity by producer Quincy Jones, who made the music sing and dance with a funky, in-the-pocket jangle that would be much copied through the years.
Williams' clean rhythmic grooves informed much of Off The Wall, but it was on 1982's Thriller, and particularly the MTV gate-crasher Billie Jean, that the guitarist established his signature sound. Williams humbly referred to his playing as a "secret spice. You don't need much of it, but the right amount gets the job done."
Surprisingly, in the case of Billie Jean, that dash of sonic flavor, a fascinating mix of rhythm meets lead, was captured on a demo. Engineer Bruce Swedien has stated that Williams recorded a pass at Jackson's home studio just after the song was written. Various attempts at re-creating the guitar track were made at LA's Westlake Studio, but nothing could beat the magic of the demo. Sometimes that first pinch of spice is just enough.