SonnyBoy

You got to help me, baby.I can't do it all by myself.You know if you don't help me, darling,I'll have to find myself somebody else.sonny boy williamson

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FAQs

How Do I Sort Out The Overlapping Sonny Boy I and II Recordings?

Click on the "Records" bar to your left and start with those records noted in ALL CAPITALS.

 

The Complete Career-Spanning Recordings

CD Sets

1. The Best of Trumpet Records recordings (released and unreleased) is now included in Sonny Boy Williamson: The Classic Sides 1951-1954 JSP7766 (Made in Britain) (4 CDs including 55 cuts with Sonny Boy ), 

 2  the rare (look for one on E-Bay) Sonny Boy williamson: The Chess Years CD Red Box 1  (4 CDs with 70 released and 19 unreleased alternatives) on Charly has everything released or unreleased on Chess, and

 3. d American Folk Blues Festival '62-65 ECD26100 (5 CDs including 8 cuts by Sonny Boy) and \

  4. another five performanceson The Unissued 1963 AFBF as included on The Devil's Music; The Soundtrack to The 1976 BBC TV Documentary Series INDIGO Box Set (Do not buy other versions of the Unlissued 1963 AFBF as they have an annoying high pitched feedback squeal on them. This was not released on other versions because it had that noise and they have finally engineered it out. This CD has the marvelous and unique versions of "99," "Don't Stop Me Talkin'" and "All My Love In Vain" which he has not recorded live elsewhere.).

   5. There are also 13 tracks from the BBC special with Chris Barber in May 1964 which featured Sonny Boy Williamson on Lost and Found The Blues Legacy Vol. 3  available at www.blueslegacy.net .

    6.Other bootlegs have been released but they are not on authorized CDs or currently available.

DVDs Of course the 13 performances + individual performances as a finale, with Mae Mercer, Victoria Spreey & Muddy Waters and DVDs on

   1.The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966 Vol 1 & 2 and

    2. The British Tours 1963-1966 and

    3. Memphis Slim and Sonny Boy Williamson Live In Europe  from Hip-O including "Sonny Boy Williamson," the Stockholm Sweden-produced film for Storyville Records in Denmark and the Jazz Prism TV show      from   Belgium are on  from Hip-O

Starter collections:  A good collection to begin with is The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson (2CDs) or His Best (1CD) or a good career retrospective is Harp From Deep South. Don't overlook the brilliant live AFBF recordings, my favorites. Also don't miss The Animals and The Yardbirds recordings, which are, at times, unpolished and prematurely recorded but surprisingly competant.Some of Sonny Boy's features are excellent.

Note: Chess a re-recorded eight Trumpet Records originals including "Eyesight To The Blind" (as "Born Blind"). The results were often strikingly different. All of Sonny Boy's recordings for Chess Records were released on their Checker label.

Sonny Boy's Lonesome Cabin

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 All currently being edited and updated..

  • A detailed discography covering over 50 full-length records, some very rare, by Sonny Boy plus numerous singles and 78's
  • A list of all versions of all songs known to have been recorded by him.
  • A discussion of his unique and moving harp style, with sample audio files.
  • A collection of rare photos.
  • A page of links to related resources and publications. Don't overlook this lively and informative section which introduces you to many of Sonny Boy's closest friends, peers and followers as well as gives you a brief history of Delta Blues History.

Whether you are a long-term Sonny Boy fan seeking an elusive recording or a budding harmonica player hoping to pick up a few tips from the maestro, we hope you find this site useful and interesting. If you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to send us an e-mail at sonnyboy@donoghue.com before you go. 

Tell us what country you are from, your relationship to Sonny Boy and or how his music has changed your.

'fessor Mojo AKA Bill Donoghue.

**************************************** PERSONAL STORIES AND REFERRALS INVITED ...

Tell us your Sonny Boy Williamson stories - everyone has them.

Everybody who ever met Sonny Boy can tell you about him and what happened when they met him. He was one of a kind. On the other hand, those thave have discovered his musi since he died in 1965, can only speak of how his lonesome moving harmonica, his lyrics or his blues singing touched them and sometimes their music.

'fessor Mojo AKA Bill Donoghue, Host, www.sonnyboy.com can be reached at fessormojo@yahoo.com

Author, Don't Start Me To Talkin' (Preview of Sonny Boy's Bio) Available on Amazon.com

Sonny Boy is buried in Tutwiler MS next to the remains of the Whitfiield Baptist Church where it is rumor that Sonny Boy preached back in the 1930 and where his funeral was held. Sonny Boy's last two sisters Mary Ashford and Julia Barner are buried nearby. I personally visited the two sisters about three months before the fire in which they perished. The gravesite is overseen by and ta clinic is run a nun, Sister Dr. Anne Brooks who also runs The Tutwiler Medical Clinic. Visit The Sonny Boy Club www.SonnyBoyClub.com and consider donation to this worthy cause.

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Sonny Boy Williamson II, nicknamed "King of the Harmonica" by his peers, was one of the most inspiring harp players in blues history. With his passionate yet understated style, his metronome-like timing, and his endlessly inventive technique, he has influenced generations of players, including such virtuosos as Howling Wolf, James Cotton and Junior Wells.

In action "Sonny Boy unfolded slowly," according to blues writer Paul Oliver. "He did not give away all his secrets either in conversation or music. Instead, when he played, he built up the tension of his phrasing with logical development. One had to listen for quite a while as he progressed from short bursts, single notes, punctuated phrases to filigree patterns of complexity and richness. His large, calloused lips enfolded the cheap harps that he played and he seemed to mould the notes through the long fingers of his cupped hands (King Biscuit Time liner notes).

Marc Ryan, another long-term admirer, wrote: "The tone of Sonny's harmonica was unusually full, the result of a combination of virtuosic breath control and an especially large resonating chamber created by cupping his hands around his ... harp ... Sonny thus brought unique timbres to his blues, which were ... laden with a joyful sensuality" (Boppin' With Sonny liner notes).

Sonny Boy's harp style included "intricately woven phrasing, bold sonic textures, trills and vibrato ... He was also an effective showman -- he could, for instance, put the entire harp in his mouth and still draw notes. More important, his playing made the harp the centre attraction, no matter how many other great blues musicians shared the stage with him (Sonny Boy Blues Society Home Page).

For blues harp aficianados, here are some further notes on Sonny Boy's innovative technique

  • His preferred harmonica was a 10-hole Hohner Marine Band or OId Standby, but he sometimes played the larger Marine Bands: the 12-hole 364 and the 14-hole 365. Some publicity photographs show him holding an Echo-Vamper, which is similar to the 364. From time to time -- for example, on "Dissatisfied" -- he used a Hohner Koch Chromatic. It has been claimed that he modified his harps by slightly bending the reeds with a toothpick, but this may have been a misconception.
  • His preferred harmonica keys were F, C, B flat and D, but he also played in E, G and A.
  • He generally played in second position, with the occasional exception (e.g., on "Trust My Baby" be played in first position on a G harp, and on "I Don't Know" he played in third position on a C harp).
  • He used the tongue-blocking (as opposed to lip-puckering) technique most of the time and was an accomplished note-bender.
  • His Chess recordings were characterised by single-note runs, but his Storyville sessions reveal a skilful use of rhythm and chords.
  • He had a largely acoustic sound, playing to a mike on a stand and using his hands extensively for tremolo and wah-wah effects. However, he sometimes opted for an amplified sound, using a mike cupped in his hands (e.g., in "Cross My Heart").
  • Almost all his notes are lower than the 5-hole draw. He rarely used the top octave, but when he did (as in "Sonny's Rhythm") he used it very effectively.

Click on the links below for some samples of Sonny Boy's playing (RealAudio 3.0 - 28.8 Mono). You'll need the RealPlayer.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

This page has benefited from discussions involving harp specialists from around the world on the web's premier harmonica mailing list, harp-l, hosted by the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH).