Sonny Boy Williamson

John Lee Curtis "Sonny Boy" Williamson (March 30, 1914 - June 1, 1948) was an American blues harmonica player and singer, and the first to use the name Sonny Boy Williamson. Biography and career Williamson was born near Jackson, Tennessee in 1914. His original recordings were considered to be in the country blues style, but he soon demonstrated skill at making harmonica a lead instrument for the blues, and popularized it for the first time in a more urban blues setting. He has been called "the father of modern blues harp". ...show more

John Lee Curtis "Sonny Boy" Williamson (March 30, 1914 - June 1, 1948) was an American blues harmonica player and singer, and the first to use the name Sonny Boy Williamson. Biography and career Williamson was born near Jackson, Tennessee in 1914. His original recordings were considered to be in the country blues style, but he soon demonstrated skill at making harmonica a lead instrument for the blues, and popularized it for the first time in a more urban blues setting. He has been called "the father of modern blues harp".

While in his teens he joined Yank Rachell and Sleepy John Estes playing with them in Tennessee and Arkansas, and in 1934 settled in Chicago. Early recordings Sonny first recorded for Bluebird Records in 1937 and his first recording, "Good Morning, School Girl", became a standard.[1] He was hugely popular among black audiences throughout the southern United States as well as in the midwestern industrial cities such as Detroit and his home base in Chicago, and his name was synonymous with the blues harmonica for the next decade. Other well-known recordings of his include "Sugar Mama Blues", "Shake the Boogie", "You Better Cut That Out", "Sloppy Drunk", "Early in the Morning" and "Stop Breaking Down" and "Hoodoo Hoodoo" aka "Hoodoo Man Blues". In 1947 "Shake the Boogie" made #4 on Billboard's Race Records chart.[1] Williamson's style influenced a large number of blues harmonica performers, including Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor among many others.

He was the most widely heard and influential blues harmonica player of his generation. His music was also influential on many of his non-harmonica playing contemporaries and successors, including Muddy Waters (who had played guitar with Williamson in the mid-1940s) and Jimmy Rogers (whose first recording in 1946 was as a harmonica player, performing an uncanny imitation of Williamson's style); Rogers later recorded Williamson's songs "My Little Machine" and "Sloppy Drunk" on Chess Records, and Waters recorded "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" in September 1963 for his Chess Folk Singer LP and again in the 1970s when he moved to Johnny Winter's Blue Sky label on CBS. 1940s He was popular enough that by the 1940s, another blues harp player, Aleck/Alex "Rice" Miller, from Mississippi, began also using the name Sonny Boy Williamson. John Lee is said to have objected to this, though no legal action took place, possibly due to the fact that Miller did not release any records during Williamson's lifetime, and that Williamson played mainly around the Chicago area, while Miller seldom ventured beyond the Mississippi Delta region until after Williamson's death. ...show less