So one of those early bluesman who mightily influenced blues and rock performers in the 60s and 70s was born on December 5th! Now the year he was born that may be in question in his review at the AllMusic Guide, Cub Koda writes:
A moody, bitter, and suspicious man, no one wove such a confusing web of misinformation as Sonny Boy Williamson II. Even his birth date (stated as December 5, 1899 in most reference books, but some sources claim his birth may have been in either 1897 or 1909) and real name (Aleck or Alex or Willie “Rice” — which may or may not be a nickname — Miller or Ford) cannot be verified with absolute certainty. Read More
and while his birth year might be in question his career and impact on the blues can not again from Cub Kuda:
Sonny Boy Williamson was, in many ways, the ultimate blues legend. By the time of his death in 1965, he had been around long enough to have played with Robert Johnson at the start of his career and Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Robbie Robertson at the end of it. In between, he drank a lot of whiskey, hoboed around the country, had a successful radio show for 15 years, toured Europe to great acclaim and simply wrote, played and sang some of the greatest blues ever etched into black phonograph records. His delivery was sly, evil and world-weary, while his harp-playing was full of short, rhythmic bursts one minute and powerful, impassioned blowing the next. His songs were chock-full of mordant wit, with largely autobiographical lyrics that hold up to the scrutiny of the printed page. Though he took his namesake from another well-known harmonica player, no one really sounded like him.Continue Reading
Pretty amazing from Robert Johnson to Page and Clapton. Just look at some of the songs that he wrote and you can see for yourself the impact he’s had!! I know that many of the songs included below are in my music library! How about yours??
Some of his better known songs include “Don’t Start Me To Talkin'” (his only major hit, it reached the #3 position on the national Billboard R&B charts in 1955),”Fattenin’ Frogs for Snakes”, “Keep It To Yourself”, “Your Funeral and My Trial”, “Bye Bye Bird”, “Nine Below Zero”, “Help Me”, “Checkin’ Up on My Baby”, and the infamous “Little Village”, with dialogue ‘unsuitable for airplay’ with Leonard Chess. His song “Eyesight to the Blind” was performed by The Who as a key song in their rock opera Tommy (the only song in that opus not written by a band member) and it was later covered on the Aerosmith album Honkin’ on Bobo. His “One Way Out”, reworked from Elmore James and recorded twice in the early 1960s, became popularized by The Allman Brothers Band in the early 1970s. In interviews in The Last Waltz, roots-rockers The Band recount jamming with Miller prior to their initial fame as Bob Dylan’s electric backing band, and making never-realized plans to become his backing band. Many of his most famous recordings appeared on The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson and His Best.
Williamson’s output of recordings, both issued and unissued, for Lillian McMurray’s Trumpet label, can be found on Arhoolie, Alligator, Purple Pyramid, Collectables, plus a handful of other domestic and import imprints, while his years as a resident of the Chess/Checker house appear on various compilations on MCA/Chess. His European recordings reside on Alligator, Analogue Productions, Storyville, and others.
Williamson had an influence on modern day blues and blues rock artists, as is shown by the number of his songs that are still covered, including: Full Biography at Wikipedia
- Muddy Waters – “Nine Below Zero”
- Canned Heat – “Nine Below Zero” and “Help Me”
- Junior Wells – “Help Me”
- Howlin’ Wolf – “Cool Disposition”
- B. B. King – “Eyesight to the Blind”
- Mose Allison – “Eyesight to the Blind”
- John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – “Help Me”, “Checkin’ Up on My Baby”
- Led Zeppelin – “Bring It On Home”
- Van Morrison – “Take Your Hands Out of My Pocket”, “Help Me” – both on the 1974 live album It’s Too Late to Stop Now. Morrison has often sung “Help Me” in live performances throughout his long career.
- The Allman Brothers Band – “One Way Out”
- New York Dolls – “Don’t Start Me Talkin'”
- Ten Years After – “Help Me”
- The Who – “Eyesight to the Blind”
- Aerosmith – “Eyesight to the Blind”
- Gary Moore – “Eyesight to the Blind”, “Don’t Start Me To Talkin'”
- The Blues Brothers – “From the Bottom”
- Lester Butler – “I Cross My Heart”
- Rory Gallagher – “My Baby, She Left Me”, and “Don’t Start me Talkin”; on the Defender
- Nine Below Zero took their band name from his song.
- The Downchild Blues Band, also known as “Downchild”, took their name from his song, “Mister Downchild”.
- John Popper of Blues Traveler notes Sonny Boy Williamson as a strong influence on his harmonica playing.
- Joe Bonamassa – “Your Funeral and My Trial”
- Dr. Feelgood – “Checking Up On My Baby” on their live album, Stupidity
- The Doobie Brothers – “Don’t Start Me To Talkin'” from their album “Toulouse Street”
- Joan Osborne – “Bring It On Home”
- Prado Blues band – “[Help me]”
Gary Moore’s cover of “Eyesight to the Blind” is a favorite of mine?? What’s yours??
Here’s a video of Sonny Boy performing “Bye-Bye Bird” with a handless playing of the harmonica at the end and a smooth walk off the stage!!