(1910 - 1965)

aka:  Rice Miller, Sonny Boy Williamson #2,
Willie Williamson

(born Aleck Miller, 1910, Glendora, Mississippi;
died May 25, 1965, Helena, Arkansas)

Sonny Boy Williamson was one of the most influential harmonica players in blues history.  Aside from being a harp player who helped set the course of modern blues, he was also a legendary blues character whose colorful personality, unpredictable actions, and frequent stretching of the truth only served to enliven his blues with a rare, but warmly embraced, eccentricity.

Williamson's harp style included intricately woven phrases, bold sonic textures, trills and vibrato, a wide range of dynamic passion, and a superb sense of timing.  He was also a effective showman -- he could, for instance, put the entire harp in his mouth and still draw notes.

More important, his playing made the harp the center attraction, no matter how many other great blues musicians shared the stage with him.  Yet Williamson was more than just a blues harp genius and potent performer; he was also a superb tunesmith.  Many of his songs -- "One Way Out," "Don't Start Me Talking," "Cross My Heart," "Eyesight To The Blind," "Mighty Long Time," "Help Me," and "Nine Below Zero" -- are acknowledged blues classics and staples in any serious blues harmonica player's repertoire.

Williamson was also a convincing singer and the blues' first radio star.  His daily performances on the Helena, Arkansas, radio station KFFA in the 1940s, which were heard throughout eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, and the Mississippi Delta, not only made him a celebrity, but also influenced an entire generation of blues musicians living in the region.

Robert Santelli -- The Big Book of Blues:  A Biographical Encyclopedia

1900s  / 1910s  / 1920s  / 1930s / 1940s
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