Personalities | Sonny Boy Williamson | Roots of Rock

(Harmonica, vocals, 1912–65)

The career of Mississippi’s Sonny Boy Williamson began as a case of identity theft. A 1930s delta bluesman named ‘Rice’ Miller had landed a starring spot on the blues radio show King Biscuit Time. The sponsor had Miller pose as Chicago harmonica star John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson. The deception worked in rural America, and, when John Lee was murdered in 1948, Miller declared himself ‘the original Sonny Boy’.

Sonny Boy II had his own vocal and harp style and would prove himself one of the greatest bluesmen of all. The sides he cut for Trumpet and Chess in the 1950s showcase him at full power on signature songs like ‘Eyesight To The Blind’, ‘Don’t Start Me To Talkin’’ and ‘Help Me’. The early 1960s folk revival and exposure in Europe made Williamson a star there and a big influence on The Yardbirds and The Animals. Williamson always returned, however, to the King Biscuit show.

Styles & Forms | Roots of Rock
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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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