John Lee -Sonny Boy- Williamson : The Blues Harmonica of Chicago's Bronzeville
Overview - John Lee -Sonny Boy- Williamson was one of the most popular blues harmonica players and singers from the late 1930s through the 1940s. Recording for the Bluebird Records and RCA Victor labels, Sonny Boy shaped Chicago's music scene with an innovative style that gave structure and speed to blues harmonica performance. Read more...
More About John Lee -Sonny Boy- Williamson by Mitsutoshi Inaba
John Lee -Sonny Boy- Williamson was one of the most popular blues harmonica players and singers from the late 1930s through the 1940s. Recording for the Bluebird Records and RCA Victor labels, Sonny Boy shaped Chicago's music scene with an innovative style that gave structure and speed to blues harmonica performance. His recording in 1937 of -Good Morning, School Girl, - followed by others made him a hit with Southern black audiences who had migrated north. Unfortunately, his popularity and recording career ended on June 1, 1948, when he was robbed and murdered in Chicago, Illinois. In 1980, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. Mitsutoshi Inaba offers the first full-length biography of this key figure in the evolution of the Chicago blues. Taking readers through Sonny Boy's career, Inaba illustrates how Sonny Boy lived through the lineage of blues harmonica performance, drawing on established traditions and setting out a blueprint for the growing electric blues scene. Interviews with Sonny Boy's family members and his last harmonica student provide new insights into the character of the man as well as the techniques of the musician. John Lee -Sonny Boy- Williamson: The Blues Harmonica of Chicago's Bronzeville provides fans and musicians alike an invaluable exploration of the life and legacy of one the Chicago blues' founding figures.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
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Williamson, one of the well-known blues harmonica players and singers from the golden era of the blues, gets the royal treatment from musicologist Inaba, who elevates him as an American musical innovator. Williamson was born in 1914 and nicknamed Sonny Boy by his grandmother in his native Tennessee. When he was 11, his mother gave him a harmonica, sparking endless hours of practice until he could perform locally. Blues fans acknowledge Williamson's supreme talent on the blues harp, which was recorded in the 1937–1938 Aurora sessions and the 1938–1948 Chicago dates. When the singer joined the blues legends of the popular Bluebird Records in its glory days, his clever phrasing and dazzling harp technique sent his fans rushing to buy his more than 120 recorded sides for the Bluebird and RCA Victor labels. He also recorded a smash hit, "Good Morning, School Girl," in 1937. Inaba pays much attention to Williamson's drinking problem, womanizing, and reckless behavior leading to his murder in 1948—maybe too much. Despite Williamson's flaws, Inaba confirms the prickly singer, who transformed down-home country blues into a unique up-tempo urban jump sound, as a genuine folk hero influential in one of America's signature musical forms. (Sept.)