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Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller)

1912 - 1965

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Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller) - Bring It On Home - written by Willie Dixon

Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller)

Sonny Boy Williamson
Born Alex Miller (born possibly 5th December 1912 – died 25th May 1965), known professionally as Sonny Boy Williamson, was an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, from Mississippi. He is acknowledged as one of the most charismatic and influential blues musicians, with considerable prowess on the harmonica and creative songwriting skills. He recorded successfully in the 1950s and 1960s, and had a direct influence on later blues and rock performers.
His head stone found in or near Tutwiler, Mississippi, lists his name as Aleck Miller, his birth date as March 11, 1908 and his date of death as June 23, 1965.
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Sonny Boy Williamson Discography - Album CD

The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson      
Sonny Boy williamson - His Best 1997   Compilation
Portrait of a Blues Man 1996    
Boppin' with Sonny 1997    

Sonny Boy Williamson - well known songs

Don't Start Me To Talkin 1955  
Fattenin' Frogs for Snakes    
Keep It To Yourself    
Your Funeral and My Trial    
Bye Bye Bird    
Nine Below Zero    
Help Me    
Checkin' Up on My Baby    
Little Village (with Leonard Chess)    
Eyesight to the Blind    
One Way Out    
Bring It On Home (written by Willie Dixon)    
Take Your Hands Out of My Pocket    

Sonny Boy Williamson bio

Sonny Boy Williamson
Sonny Boy Williamson (c.1912-1965), one of the premier artists in blues history, was born on a Glendora plantation under the name Alex Miller. A colorful character and charismatic performer, he was widely known as “Rice” Miller or "Sonny Boy No. 2" - in deference to another bluesman who had recorded earlier as "Sonny Boy "Williamson. Miller’s mastery of the blues idiom resonated through all phases of his work as a singer, songwriter, and harmonica player.

Sonny Boy Williamson was perhaps the greatest harmonica player ever born in the Mississippi Delta and one of the most remarkable and poetic blues composers as well. He left an impressive musical legacy through his recordings of “Eyesight to the Blind,” “Help Me,” “Your Funeral and My Trial,” “Fattening Frogs for Snakes,” “Nine Below Zero,” "Mighty Long Time," "Unseeing Eye," and many others made for Trumpet Records in Jackson (1951-1954) and the Chess/Checker company in Chicago (1957-1964). He was also the first star of blues radio broadcasting in the South, famed for his live performances on the influential King Biscuit Time radio show out of Helena, Arkansas, which began in 1941.
Helena was home to a flourishing blues scene that inspired Sonny Boy Williamson and other legendary musicians from Mississippi, including Robert Johnson, Pinetop Perkins, Houston Stackhouse, James “Peck” Curtis and Honeyboy Edwards, to take up residence here in the 1930s and ‘40s. They and many others performed at a famous juke joint at this site called the Hole in the Wall. Williamson’s rise to fame began in Helena as the star of KFFA radio’s “King Biscuit Time.”

Sonny Boy Williamson was born and laid to rest in Mississippi, and lived in Chicago, East St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit and numerous other locales, but Helena was the town he came to regard as home. He established himself as one of the premier blues performers in the Delta (on both the Arkansas and Mississippi sides) through his live appearances in cafes and clubs and his broadcasts on KFFA and other stations. His recordings, including the chart hits “Don’t Start Me Talkin’,” “Keep It to Yourself” and “Help Me,” brought him national recognition, and in the 1960s he played a key role in popularizing the blues in Europe and inspiring a host of British blues-rock musicians. In Europe Williamson confounded eager fans and reporters who besieged him with questions about his life. As he told fellow bluesman Willie Dixon, “It ain’t none of their business. They don’t even know me.” Genealogical research and family sources point to a likely birthdate of December 5, 1912, under the name Alex Miller, but he also called himself Rice Miller, Willie Miller, Little Boy Blue, Reverend Blue, and Willie Williams, among other monikers, and he gave birthdates as early as 1893. When he eventually took his stage name from another popular bluesman, John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, in the blues lexicon he became “Sonny Boy No. 2.”
Williamson had played in Helena even before he began performing on “King Biscuit Time” in 1941. He was joined by a succession of “King Biscuit Entertainers”–James “Peck” Curtis was a constant presence on the show, and others included Pinetop Perkins, Willie Love, Joe Willie Wilkins, Houston Stackhouse, Elmore James and W. C. Clay–all originally from Mississippi–as well as Robert Lockwood, Jr., from Arkansas and Robert “Dudlow” Taylor from Louisiana. The band performed in surrounding towns to advertise King Biscuit Flour and Sonny Boy Corn Meal, and they also played locally at theaters and nightspots. Venues in Helena included the Owl Cafe, Busy Bee, Kitty Cat Cafe, Mississippi Cafe, Dreamland Cafe and Silver Moon, but the best-remembered juke joint was the Hole in the Wall, operated by another native Mississippian, James Oscar Crawford. Williamson and various band members, along with Willie Johnson, Doctor Ross, Hacksaw Harney, and Honeyboy Edwards were among those recalled at the Hole in the Wall. Rumors even circulated that Robert Johnson–another associate of Sonny Boy’s–was murdered while playing here, but his death actually occurred in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1938. During his extensive travels Williamson periodically revisited to Helena and returned for the final time in 1965, telling Stackhouse, “I done come home to die now.” On May 25 he failed to show for the KFFA broadcast and was found dead in the boardinghouse where he roomed at 427 1/2 Elm Street. His sisters buried him in Tutwiler, where fans often leave harmonicas and whiskey bottles on his grave.
© Mississippi Blues Commission

Influence of Sonny Boy No. 2

Sonny Boy Williamson
Sonny Boy Williamson was born Aleck (Rice) Miller in Mississippi in December 1912. He’s not to be confused with John Lee Curtis Williamson, a blues artist and harmonica player who was the original “Sonny Boy” and who died in Chicago in June 1948. (Blues scholars often distinguish between the two with Roman numerals I and II.)

Sonny Boy Williamson II started his career on the King Biscuit Time show on KFFA radio in Helena, Ark., and later performed on a program on KWEM radio, working with blues greats before they were greats — Elmore James and Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup among them.

He developed his own signature harmonica style. In liner notes for “Boppin’ With Sonny,” producer and blues scholar Marc Ryan observed that “[t]he tone of Sonny’s harmonica was unusually full, the result of a combination of virtuosic breath control and an especially large resonating chamber created by cupping his hands around his … harp.” 

Williamson II played and wrote songs throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and was a direct influence on the emerging blues scene in England. 

He toured frequently, recorded with early incarnations of the Yardbirds and the Animals. He died of a heart attack in May 1965, but not before inspiring legions of young Brits hoping to make their mark in the world of music. Brits like one Michael Philip Jagger, who took the time to remember him at the White House last Tuesday night. 
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Which Sonny Boy Williamson ?

There is confusion between John Lee Curtis "Sonny Boy" Williamson (1914-1948) the original Sonny Boy Williamson and Alex Miller (1912-1965) also known as Rice Miller and Sonny Boy Williamson II. Both were influential blues artists and both played harmonica.

Sonny Boy Williamson
John Lee Curtis "Sonny Boy" Williamson
[ John Lee Curtis "Sonny Boy" Williamson page ]

Sonny Boy Williamson
Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller/Rice Miller)
[ Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller) page ]

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[ Blues music ]
[ Easy guide ]

Blues takes the Biscuit (or is the flour?)

King Biscuit Time
King Biscuit Time is the longest-running daily radio show in history, and is broadcast daily on Delta Broadcasting’s KFFA 1360 AM in Helena, Arkansas.  First broadcast on 21st November 1941, King Biscuit Time featured legendary blues artists Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller) and Robert Jr. Lockwood playing live in the studio.
The show was named after the locally distributed King Biscuit Flour.  The distributor agreed to sponsor a radio production for Sonny Boy and his band if they agreed to endorse the flour. 
The original band, the King Biscuit Entertainers, often included boogie pianist Pinetop Perkins and James Peck Curtis on drums.  It was the first regular radio show to feature blues and influenced four generations of delta blues artists and three generations of rock artists whose sounds are based on the blues. 
In keeping with its tradition of broadcasting live music from the studio, King Biscuit Time still welcomes artists in the studio almost weekly.
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[ King Biscuit Time ]
[ KFFA Radio ]
[ KFFA on wikipedia ]

Bring It On Home

Bring It On Home - Led Zeppelin
(Sonny Boy Williamson (Miller) & Willie Dixon}
"Bring It On Home" is a song written by American bassist-songwriter Willie Dixon. The first known recording of the song was by Sonny Boy Williamson II in 1963. The song was later recorded by Led Zeppelin in 1969, and has since been covered by many artists.
Sonny Boy Williamson's version of the song was recorded on 11th January 1963 in Chicago, Illinois. Accompanying Williamson on vocals and harmonica were Matt "Guitar" Murphy on guitar, Milton Rector on bass, Al Duncan on drums, and either Lafayette Leake or Billy Emerson on an organ.

Williamson's version was not released until three years later when it appeared on The Real Folk Blues in early 1966 and was released as a single.
In 1969, English rock band Led Zeppelin recorded a version of the song for their album Led Zeppelin II. The intro and outro were deliberate homages to the Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller) song, whereas the rest of the track was an original Jimmy Page/Robert Plant composition; however, Willie Dixon was not given a lyric writing credit for the song. In 1972, Arc Music, the publishing arm of Chess Records, brought a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement over "Bring It On Home" and the case was settled out-of-court for an undisclosed sum.

In an interview he gave in 1977, Jimmy Page commented:
The thing with "Bring It On Home," there's only a tiny bit taken from Sonny Boy Williamson's version and we threw that in as a tribute to him. People say, "Oh, 'Bring It On Home' is stolen." Well, there's only a little bit in the song that relates to anything that had gone before it, just the end.
Another version dating from 1972 is included on the live release How the West Was Won which listed the song as a medley on the cover. "Bring It On Home" was credited to Dixon, while the middle section named "Bring It On Back", was credited to Bonham/Jones/Page/Plant.
also willie dixon

BBC Four Blues Collection
Sonny Boy Williamson

Sonny Boy Williamson
Blues Night presents rare footage of the harmonica blues player Sonny Boy Williamson. Introduction by B B King.
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