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 John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson

John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson

Birth
Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee, USA
Death 1 Jun 1948 (aged 34)
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Burial Medon, Madison County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 8395191 · View Source
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John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson was the first great blues hamonoicist. Not to be confused with Aleck Ford Miller, who assumed the name "Sonny Boy Williamson" to promote the sponser of his radio program in Helena, AR. Easily the most important harmonica player of the pre war era, John Lee Williamson single-handedly made the harmonica a worthy lead instrument for blues bands and opened the door for many players such as Little Walter, Billy Boy Arnold and Junior Wells. A harp virtuoso in his teens, hence the nickname, Sonny Boy learned his licks from Hamie Nixon and Noah Lewis. His call and response style of alternating vocal passages with a powerful harmonica blast would be adopted by virtually every harmonica player that followed. His career began to blossom when he moved to Chicago in 1934, and began playing with Robert Nighthawk, Big Joe Williams, Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy. From 1937 to 1947, Sonny Boy recorded over 120 sides for RCA, which included such classics as "Decoration Blues," "Whiskey Headed Blues," "Tell Me Baby," "Bring Me Another Half a Pint," "Sugar Mama," and "Hoodoo Hoodoo"(aka Hoodoo Man). His "Good Morning Little School Girl" could possibly be the most covered blues song in history. Unfortunately Sonny Boy would not live to reap the rewards of his accomplishments. On the morning of June 1, 1948 while returning home after playing the Plantation Club on Chicago's south side, he was mugged and brutally beaten. As he lay dying on the street he uttered the immortal words "Lord, have mercy on me," which would become a staple in blues lyrics.

Bio by: Jim Adams


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Jim Adams
  • Added: 17 Feb 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8395191
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson (30 Mar 1914–1 Jun 1948), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8395191, citing Blairs Chapel CME Cemetery, Medon, Madison County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .