Sonny Boy Williamson

(1914-1948)

Not to be confused with harmonica-playing bluesman Aleck "Rice" Miller, who borrowed Williamson’s stage name and style and continued performing for decades after the original Sonny Boy's passing, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson is credited with playing a leading role in establishing harmonica as a lead instrument in the Blues.

The Tennessee-born Williamson made his first recordings in a relatively conventional Country Blues style, but he developed his own more distinctive urban sound after he moved to Chicago in 1934. He began recording for the Bluebird label three years later, making his debut with "Good Morning, School Girl," which, with a slightly altered title ("Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl”), would later become an Electric Blues standard.  Williamson was massively popular with black audiences, and his playing exercised a substantial influence on such subsequent Blues harpists as Little Walter, Junior Wells and Sonny Terry.  Indeed, Williamson's popularity in the 1940s was such that Rice Miller was inspired to adopt his name, although Miller didn't begin releasing records until after Williamson's death. The original Sonny Boy Williamson was killed in a robbery on Chicago's South Side, while walking home from a club gig.