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Sonny Terry

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Sonny Terry
Sonny Terry 1981 in New Zealand
Sonny Terry 1981 in New Zealand
Background information
Birth nameSaunders Terell
Born(1911-10-24)October 24, 1911
Greensboro, Georgia
DiedMarch 11, 1986(1986-03-11) (aged 74)
Mineola, New York
GenresBlues, Piedmont blues, Folk blues
InstrumentsHarmonica, vocals,
Years active1940s–1980s

Saunders Teddell,[1][2] or Saunders Terrell (or other variants, sources differ) (October 24, 1911 – March 11, 1986),[3] known as Sonny Terry, was an American Piedmont blues and folk musician,[4] who was known for his energetic blues harmonica style, which frequently included vocal whoops and hollers and occasionally imitations of trains and fox hunts.

Life[change | change source]

He was born Saunders Terrell. His father, who was a farmer and musician, taught him the basics of harmonica playing. At the age of 16 he became blind. Because of this he was not able to work on the farm of his father. He started playing music. He developed a harmonica style which included also vocal parts and hollers. Also the imitation of trains was part of his style.

In 1938 he played in the Carnegie Hall during the first From Spirituals to Swing concert. The same year he recorded for the Library of Congress. Although he was famous as pure folk blues artist he also played jump blues in a band. From 1941 till 1982 he played together with the guitarist Brownie McGhee (1915–1996). He also played with other folk and blues legends like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Champion Jack Dupree, Blind Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy amongst others.

In the 1980s he stopped due to age his career.He played only some concerts. He died in 1986. This year he also was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame.[5]

Discographie[change | change source]

Main albums[change | change source]

  • California Blues – Universal (Pty) Ltd.
  • On the Road – Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
  • Sonny Terry's Harmonica and Vocal Solos – Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
  • 1958 Sonny Terry's New Sound – Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
  • 1960 Sonny's Story – Bluesville/Original Blues Classics
  • 1963 Sonny Is King – Bluesville/Original Blues Classics
  • 1965 Sonny Terry – Archive Folk
  • 1960's Sonny Terry Guitar & Harmonica – Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
  • 1976 Black Night Road – Tomato
  • 1976 Harmonica Blues – Storyville
  • 1976 Sonny Terry's Washboard Band
  • 1984 Whoopin' – Alligator Records

Compilations[change | change source]

  • 1991 The Folkways Years, 1944–1963 – Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
  • 1995 Whoopin' the Blues: The Capitol Recordings, 1947–1950 Capitol
  • 1996 Complete Recordings 1938–1945 – Document[6]

References[change | change source]

  1. Herzhaft, Gérard (1992). Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. pp. 227. ISBN 978-1-55728-252-1.
  2. Clarke, Joseph F. (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 159.
  3. Campbell, Al. "Sonny Terry: Biography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  4. Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  5. Biography by Al Campbell All Music Guide
  6. Discography Sonny Terry All Music Guide