|Sweden EP 1960|
Found on the Street
The joyous whoop that Sonny Terry naturally emitted between raucous harp blasts was as distinctive a signature sound as can possibly be imagined. Only a handful of blues harmonica players wielded as much of a lasting influence on the genre as did the sightless Terry (Buster Brown, for one, copied the whoop and all), who recorded some fine urban blues as a bandleader in addition to serving as guitarist Brownie McGhee's longtime duet partner.
Saunders Terrell's father was a folk-styled harmonica player who performed locally at dances, but blues wasn't part of his repertoire (he blew reels and jigs). Terry wasn't born blind, he lost sight in one eye when he was five, the other at age 18. That left him with extremely limited options for making any sort of feasible living, so he took to the streets armed with his trusty harmonicas. Terry soon joined forces with Piedmont pioneer Blind Boy Fuller, first recording with the guitarist in 1937 for Vocalion.
Terry's unique talents were given an extremely classy airing in 1938 when he was invited to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall at the fabled From Spirituals to Swing concert. He recorded for the Library of Congress that same year and cut his first commercial sides in 1940. Terry had met McGhee in 1939, and upon the death of Fuller, they joined forces, playing together on a 1941 McGhee date for OKeh and settling in New York as a duo in 1942. There they broke into the folk scene, working alongside Leadbelly, Josh White, and Woody Guthrie.
|UK EP 1965|
Terry made some nice sides in an R&B mode for Jax, Jackson, Red Robin, RCA Victor, Groove, Harlem, Old Town, and Ember during the '50s, usually with Brownie close by on guitar. But it was the folk boom of the late '50s and early '60s that made Brownie and Sonny household names (at least among folk aficionados). They toured long and hard as a duo, cutting a horde of endearing acoustic duet LPs along the way, before scuttling their decades-long partnership amidst a fair amount of reported acrimony during the mid-'70s.
►►► Sonny Terry Biography ◄◄◄
Saunders Terrell (24 October 1911 - 11 March 1986), better known as Sonny Terry, was a blind American Piedmont blues musician. He was widely known for his energetic blues harmonica style, which frequently included vocal whoops and hollers, and imitations of trains and fox hunts.
Terry was born in Greensboro, GA. His father, a farmer, taught him to play basic blues harp as a youth. He sustained injuries to his eyes and lost his sight by the time he was 16, which prevented him from doing farm work himself, and in order to earn a living Terry was forced to play music. He began playing in Shelby, North Carolina. After his father died, he began playing in the trio of Piedmont blues-style guitarist Blind Boy Fuller. When Fuller died in 1941, he established a long-standing musical relationship with Brownie McGhee, and the pair recorded numerous songs together. The duo became well-known among white audiences, as they joined the growing folk movement of the 1950s and 1960s. This included collaborations with Styve Homnick, Woody Guthrie and Moses Asch, producing Folkways Records (now Smithsonian/Folkways) classic recordings.
In 1938 Terry was invited to play at Carnegie Hall for the first From Spirituals to Swing concert, and later that year he recorded for the Library of Congress. In 1940 Terry recorded his first commercial sides. Some of his most famous works include "Old Jabo" a song about a man bitten by a snake and "Lost John" in this he demonstrates his amazing breath control .
Despite their fame as "pure" folk artists, in the 1940s, Terry and McGhee fronted a jump blues combo with honking saxophone and rolling piano that was variously billed as Brownie McGhee and his Jook House Rockers or Sonny Terry and his Buckshot Five.
Terry was also in the 1947 original cast of the Broadway musical comedy, Finian's Rainbow. He also appeared in The Colour Purple directed by Steven Spielberg. With Brownie McGhee, he appeared in the 1979 Steve Martin comedy The Jerk. Terry collaborated with Ry Cooder on "Walkin' Away Blues" as well as a cover of Robert Johnson's "Crossroad Blues" for the 1986 film Crossroads.
Terry died from natural causes at Mineola, New York, in March 1986, the year he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He died three days before Crossroads was released in theaters.
►►► Brownie McGhee Biography ◄◄◄
Walter Brown ("Brownie") McGhee (November 30, 1915 – February 16, 1996) was a Piedmont blues singer and guitarist, best known for his collaborations with the harmonica player Sonny Terry.
Brownie McGhee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. As a child he had polio, which incapacitated his leg. His brother Granville "Sticks" or "Stick" McGhee was nicknamed for pushing young Brownie around in a cart. His father, George McGhee, was a factory worker known around University Avenue for playing guitar and singing. Brownie's uncle made him a guitar from a tin marshmallow box and a piece of board. McGhee spent much of his youth immersed in music, singing with local harmony group the Golden Voices Gospel Quartet and teaching himself to play guitar. A March of Dimes-funded leg operation enabled McGhee to walk.
At age 22, Brownie McGhee became a traveling musician, working in the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and befriending Blind Boy Fuller, whose guitar playing influenced him greatly. After Fuller's death in 1941, J. B. Long of Columbia Records had McGhee adopt his mentor's name, branding him "Blind Boy Fuller No. 2." By that time, McGhee was recording for Columbia's subsidiary Okeh Records in Chicago, but his real success came after he moved to New York in 1942, when he teamed up with Sonny Terry, whom he had known since 1939 when Sonny was Blind Boy Fuller's harmonica player. The pairing was an overnight success; as well as recording, they toured together until around 1980. As a duo, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee did most of their work from 1958 until 1980, spending 11 months of each year touring, and recording dozens of albums.
Despite their later fame as "pure" folk artists playing for white audiences, in the 1940s Terry and McGhee also attempted to be successful black recording performers, fronting a jump blues combo with honking saxophone and rolling piano, variously calling themselves "Brownie McGhee and his Jook House Rockers" or "Sonny Terry and his Buckshot Five," often with Champion Jack Dupree and Big Chief Ellis. They also appeared in the original Broadway productions of Finian's Rainbow and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
|UK EP 1965|
Happy Traum, a former guitar student of Brownie's, edited a blues guitar instruction guide and songbook for him. Using a tape recorder, Traum had McGhee instruct and, between lessons, talk about his life and the blues. Guitar Styles of Brownie McGhee was published in New York in 1971. The autobiographical section features Brownie talking about growing up, his musical beginnings, and a history of the early blues period (1930s onward).
One of McGhee's final concert appearances was at the 1995 Chicago Blues Festival.
McGhee died from stomach cancer in February 1996 in Oakland, California at age 80; he missed his planned return trip to Australia.
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee
Ebbets Field, Denver, CO 1974-08-27
01. Radio Intro, Played the blues in every town 5:36
02. Walk On 9:27
03. Midnight hour blues 8:59
04. Feel so good (Different Recording) 4:24
05. Feel so good 3:07
06. Key to the Highway 4:55
07. Hoary Hoary these women is Killing me 3:59
08. My baby chained the lock on the door 5:13
09. Good old General 5:01
10. Walk from Boulder to Denver 4:22
11. Packing up 4:11
12. Chain don't turn around 4:33