Chicago Blues

Sonny Boy Williamson, whose real name was Aleck Ford "Rice" Miller, was a highly influential and revered blues harmonica player, singer, and songwriter. He is often distinguished from another blues harmonica player and singer, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, by being referred to as "Sonny Boy Williamson II." Here are some key points about Sonny Boy Williamson II:

  1. Early Life and Background: Sonny Boy Williamson II was born on December 5, 1912, near Glendora, Mississippi. He grew up in a musical family and began playing the harmonica and other instruments at a young age.
  2. Move to Chicago: Like many blues musicians of his era, Sonny Boy Williamson II moved to Chicago, Illinois, in the early 1940s to pursue a career in music. Chicago was a major center for blues, and he quickly became part of the city's vibrant blues scene.
  3. Harmonica Style: Sonny Boy Williamson II was renowned for his exceptional harmonica playing. His harmonica work was characterized by its fluidity, precision, and expressiveness. He was a master of both the diatonic and chromatic harmonica and played in various styles, including blues and jump blues.
  4. Recording Career: Sonny Boy Williamson II recorded for several record labels during his career, including Bluebird, Chess Records, and Checker Records. He recorded numerous classic blues tracks, including "Good Morning, School Girl," "Don't Start Me Talkin'," and "Help Me."
  5. Collaborations: Sonny Boy Williamson II worked with many notable blues musicians, including Robert Jr. Lockwood, Buddy Guy, and Willie Dixon. His collaborations resulted in some of the most memorable and enduring blues recordings.
  6. Radio Personality: In addition to his music career, Sonny Boy Williamson II had a successful career as a radio personality. He hosted a popular radio show on station KFFA in Helena, Arkansas, where he became known as "The King of the Blues."
  7. Influence on Rock Music: Sonny Boy Williamson II's blues recordings had a significant influence on the development of rock music. His harmonica playing and vocal style influenced many rock musicians, including The Rolling Stones, who covered his songs and adopted his stage name for their own harmonica player, Brian Jones.
  8. Death: Sonny Boy Williamson II passed away on May 25, 1965, in Helena, Arkansas. His death was the result of a violent altercation with a nightclub patron. His tragic death marked the end of an era in the blues world.

Sonny Boy Williamson II's contributions to the blues genre, his virtuoso harmonica playing, and his expressive vocals continue to be celebrated and admired by blues enthusiasts and musicians worldwide. His recordings remain essential listening for anyone interested in the history of the blues.