Sonny Boy Williamson | Everything you need to know about Blues Music
Sonny Boy Williamson, born Aleck or Alex or Willie “Rice” Miller, was a legendary blues artist known for his sly and world-weary delivery, powerful harmonica playing, and mordant wit. While much of his life remains shrouded in mystery and misinformation, it is known that he began his career in the mid-1930s as Little Boy Blue, traveling the Delta and playing with blues legends like Robert Johnson, Robert Nighthawk, and Elmore James. In the early 1940s, he became the star of KFFA’s King Biscuit Time, a live blues radio show, under the guise of Chicago harmonica star John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. The show was a huge success, and Williamson even had a brand of cornmeal named after him.
Despite this local success, Sonny Boy was not initially keen to record. However, he eventually began recording for Lillian McMurray’s Trumpet Records in the 1950s, releasing classic performances such as “Eyesight to the Blind.” He also played a major role in the history of the blues by bringing Elmore James into the studio to record the first version of his signature tune, “Dust My Broom.” Sonny Boy eventually became a Chess recording artist in 1955, and his first single for the label, “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’,” became a hit on the R&B charts. He was known for his rootlessness, moving between cities and musical partnerships, but his longest and most enduring relationship was with his wife, Mattie Gordon. Sonny Boy Williamson died in 1965, leaving behind a legacy as one of the greatest blues musicians of all time.