Posted by themusicsover on May 25, 2010
Sonny Boy Williamson II (Born Rice Miller)
December 5, 1899 or May 11, 1908 – May 25, 1965
There’s likely only one person who could say they played alongside not only Robert Johnson, but also Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Eric Burden, and Robbie Robertson; that person is Sonny Boy Williamson II. Born on a plantation, Williamson worked along with his father as a sharecropper until he decided to head out on his own in the early ’30s with a harmonica along for the ride. He would meet up and play with the likes of Elmore James, Robert Lockwood Jr., and the great Robert Johnson. Besides having tremendous skills on the harmonica, Williamson learned a few tricks to dazzle his audiences, like playing it with no hands or playing it while nestled between his upper lip and nose. I should point out that around this time, there was another harmonica-playing Sonny Boy Williamson gaining popularity throughout the blues world. So to distinguish the two, this one (Rice Miller) was referred to as “Number 2” or “The Second,” even though he claimed to have started using the stage name first. Williamson made his first recordings for Trumpet Records in 1951, but when the label went bankrupt in 1955, his contract became the property of the renowned Chess Records who helped him achieve much greater success. By the ’60s he was being embraced by the new British blues-rock artists as a main influence affording him the opportunity to record with the Animals and the Yardbirds. Williamson recorded some 70 songs during his career, many of which are considered blues staples and have been covered by Aerosmith, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, Nick Cave, the New York Dolls, and the Allman Brothers to name but a few. Sadly, as Williamson was gaining a new fame and fortune, he was found dead in his room on May 25, 1965 of an apparent heart attack.
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