Personalities | Sonny Terry | Forties | Jazz & Blues

(Harmonica, vocals, 1911–86)

Saunders Terrell was born in Greensboro, Georgia and taught himself to play the harmonica at the age of eight. He lost the sight in one eye, aged 10, and the second eye at 16. Terry played mostly in North Carolina from the late 1920s. He teamed up with Blind Boy Fuller in 1934 and recorded with him from late 1937 until Fuller’s death. Sonny Terry was featured at the Spirituals To Swing concerts in New York in 1938 and 1939. He recorded for the Library of Congress in 1938 and made his commercial recording debut a few days later.

He joined forces with Brownie McGhee in 1939 and was present on McGhee’s recording of ‘The Death Of Blind Boy Fuller’ in 1941 – the first time they recorded together. The pair worked in New York with Champion Jack Dupree, Leadbelly and others on the folk-blues circuit of the 1940s, and Terry appeared in the Broadway show Finian’s Rainbow during 1946–47. The Terry-McGhee team made dozens of duo albums from the mid-1950s through to the mid-1970s.

Styles & Forms | Forties | Jazz & Blues
Personalities | Lennie Tristano | Forties | Jazz & Blues

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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