Bring It On Home


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Display case included a textual statement, photographs of both men named Sonny Boy Williamson, 5 vinyl records (78s), 2 CD inserts.

Anyone learning about the blues can easily be forgiven for mistaking the identities of two famous blues harmonica players, both named Sonny Boy Williamson.

John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson (1914-1948) was born outside Jackson, Tennessee and made his career in Chicago, recording hundreds of sides spanning a decade as a solo artist and as a sideman starting in 1937. His most famous song, “Good Morning, School Girl” became a blues standard, and his harmonica playing influenced countless blues players. Williamson was murdered in a robbery as he was heading home from a gig at Chicago’s Plantation Club.

The other “Sonny Boy Williamson” (1912-1965) was born Alex Miller in Glendora, Mississippi. Known variously as Aleck Miller, Rice Miller, Willie Williamson, and other names (possibly because of evading the law and obfuscating his story to interviewers he didn’t want prying into his personal life), he took the name Sonny Boy Williamson to capitalize on the name recognition of John Lee’s successful recording career. Though from Mississippi, he is most associated with Helena, Arkansas, where he regularly performed on the King Biscuit Time radio program. His recordings for the Trumpet and Checker labels have become some of the most iconic blues harmonica recordings. He made a huge impact on 1960s British rock bands The Yardbirds, The Animals, and more.

Scholars now differentiate the two as Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee) and Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller).

To further complicate things, Enoch Williams made several recordings in the 1940s as “Sonny Boy Williams.”

To diminish any confusion, the majority of this exhibit focuses on Sonny Boy Williamson II.

78s: Good Morning, School Girl / Sonny Boy Williamson (I). Bluebird [1937]; Sugar Gal / Sonny Boy Williamson (I). RCA Victor; Shake It But Don't Break It / Sonny Boy Williams. Decca; Born Blind / Sonny Boy Williamson (II). Checker [1955-1958?]; Too Close Together / Sonny Boy Williamson (II). Trumpet Records [1953]
CD Inserts: Sonny Boy Williamson [II], Bring It On Home. Charly R&B Masters Vol. 7 (1994); The Original Sonny Boy Williamson [I]: The Later Years, 1947 (2008).

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