Sonny Boy Williamson

Sonny Boy Williamson
“Sonny Boy” Williamson was a popular harmonica musician whose recording career spanned from 1951 to 1965. No one seems to know exactly when “Sonny Boy” Williamson was born. Blues historians quote anywhere from 1894 to 1910. However “Sonny Boy”s sister claimed he was born December 9th , 1997 in Glendora , Mississippi. Born originally Aleck Miller he was nicknamed early on by his siblings for his penchant to eating “Rice and Milk” and henced dubbed the nickname by family peirs as Alex “Rice” Miller. He learned harmonica from the greats of the Delta Blues era. Later on he would adopt the name “Sonny Boy Williamson” ,although he was not the first to use “Sonny Boy” Williamson as a stage name. The original “Sonny Boy” Williamson was a Delta Blues musician of his own right originally named Johnny Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. Sometimes you will see Miller refered to as “Sonny Boy” Williamson II. “Sonny Boy” II would often insist he was the original. (thru the rest of the graveyard “Sonny Boy II’ will be refered to as “Sonny Boy” unless otherwise noted). “Sonny Boy” Williamson was unlike any harmonica musician before him, first he was a charismatic and flamboyant stage performer. Second he was a brilliant songwriter and had an unique sense of timing and syncopation which put him in a class by himself as a master of the blues harmonica. “Sonny Boy” would put the entire harmonica in his mouth and play note for note while he did the “ole soft shoe”. There is some film footage that exists that is a good example of his on stage act.He gained notority as a performer on KFFA’s “King Biscuit Flour Hour” starting in 1941 were his fifteen minute spot garnered local attention. (And also sold a lot of King Biscuit Flour) At one point his face was even imprinted on sacks of King Biscuit Flour. In 1951 he cut his first tunes for “Trumpet Records”. When “Trumpet” hit a sour note in 1955 he was picked up by “Chess Records” were he recorded until 1963. In 1963 during the British Blues Revival , he was invited to play for “The American Folk Blues Festival”. He appeared on the English T.V. program “Ready Steady Go” in a two tone suit and his famous bowler hat. This clip illustrates his ability to play with practically the whole harmonica in his mouth. While in England he did recordings with “The Animals” and “The Yardbirds”. “Sonny Boy” was a complex individual and gave different accounts of his life from interview to interview making his past history somewhat of a puzzle. His “Don’t Start Me To Talkin” was covered by “The Doobie Brothers”, “One Way Out” by “The Allman Brothers” and “Eyesight to the Blind” by “The Who”. In addition to this, his song “Help Me” became a blues standard and was recorded by “Canned Heat”,”Johnny Winter”, “Savoy Brown” and a host of other musicians. “Good Morning Little School Girl” often mistakenly credited to “Sonny Boy II” were actually recorded by “Sonny Boy I” After the England gigs he returned to Helena Arkansas. “Sonny Boy” was known a hot head, street fighter, a liar, gambler, conman and ladies man. In 1965 shortly after returning to Helena Arkansas he was jamming with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks ( which included members of “The Band”) All through the evening he had been spitting up blood shortly afterwards he died of a heart attack on May 25th, 1965

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.