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James Whiting, a.k.a. Sugar Blue is a harp player of the Baby Boom generation. Born in New York City in 1950, he got started on harmonica in his teens. By the time he was twenty he had recording credits with Brownie McGhee, Victoria Spivey, and Roosevelt Sykes. Whiting moved to Paris in 1976, and was playing at a party there when he met someone who claimed to know Mick Jagger, and that Whiting should give Jagger a call at his Paris residence. Skeptical, he tried the number, it panned out, and the result was a guest solo on Miss You from the Some Girls album. He also recorded with the Stones on the Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You albums, and appeared with them on the Steel Wheels tour.

Back in America, he recorded with Willie Dixon’s All Stars, and was awarded a Grammy in 1986 for his “Another Man Done Gone.” Sugar Blue has since recorded on the Alligator label and is a regular performer in the Chicago area. “Sugar Blue huffs and puffs hot bent notes as though the music were boiling inside him….earnest singing and brazen harmonicas…irresistible aggressiveness.” — Down Beat “…an extravagantly lyrical young harmonica player.” — New York Times “Sugar Blue is going to be a superstar.” — Village Voice “Blue’s technical mastery of the harmonica is incredible, especially his effortless command of the instrument’s often ignored high end. His dazzling high-note runs dart with a smooth grace of execution that makes their lightning speed all the more astonishing….he is virtually in a class by himself…few blues artists in recent years have come up with a sound this personal and recognizable, or pushed the frontiers of their instrument this far.” — Boston Globe “…the sound of Sugar Blue’s harmonica could pierce any night…it’s the sound of a musician who transcends the supposed limitations of his instrument.” — Chicago Tribune “He’s harmonica’s James Joyce: he sometimes sounds as if he’s trying to deconstruct the entire blues vocabulary and then patch together a bold new language with the shards left behind. His harp solos yank melody lines around as if they were tug-of-war ropes. He struts his extraordinary breath control and tongue technique…and his tone often sounds like a horn…big-league tough, skin-tight and funky…Sugar blows down lightning…and his voice is straight-ahead and authoritative…he plays from the heart with virtuosity.” — Living Blues “He’s a brilliant instrumentalist, stringing notes together with the speed and inventiveness of a top-flight jazzman. His singing is intense. This is urban blues, ’90s style.” — Request “He’s a very strange and talented musician.” — Mick Jagger “Blue is a technical wonder. He blows torrents of intense, quicksilver-lightning runs — swooping, soaring, purring, and wailing, sometimes sustaining high notes while chording beneath them. His chops are scary…Blue balances flash with feel.” — Tony “Little Sun” Glover “Indescribable may be the best adjective for Blue’s harmonica playing — there’s simply nobody else with whom to compare his soaring chops. He takes the blues harmonica well inside the realm of a lead instrument, wringing from it lightning riffs and subtle intonations.”

  Sugar Blue