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And speaking of the bizarre……

I think the title of this Sonny Boy Williamson classic is pretty much of its time…..

It looks as if the producers of that film went to an office somewhere and rounded up some volunteers to go to the conference room for Sonny Boy’s performance.

There has been much written over the years about the American Negro Blues Festival, held at Fairfield Hall, Croydon in October 1963 and featuring Muddy Waters, Otis Spann and Sonny Boy.

I remember hearing Paul Jones in his rather plummy voice saying that Manfred Mann had been approached to provide backing for Sonny Boy for the festival. “It didn’t work out” said Jones. “Sonny Boy and I fundamentally disagreed about the number of bars in a twelve bar blues”

There’s a fantastic account of Sonny Boy’s stay in England here which includes the following:

(Sonny Boy) decided to stay in England for a further six months. After the festival had finished, he moved in with Giorgio (Gomelsky, the promoter) and his wife . Enid, who was shocked one day to find Old Sonny Boy plucking a live chicken in the bath! During his stay he was backed by The Animals as well as the Yardbirds and he was recorded ‘live’ with both bands. However, the most memorable nights came when The Yardbirds teamed up with Sonny Boy at their regular gig at The Craw-Daddy. The singer created a huge impression on the band. Six foot tall and somewhat cantankerous, he carried a brief case in which he kept his harmonicas and a bottle of whisky. In order to fit in with English society, he bought himself a Savile Row suit complete with bowler hat and umbrella. This outfit that caused a sensation when he turned up at such scruffy venues as the Marquee Club in Soho complete with young girlfriends in tow.

Chris Dreja (of the Yardbirds) recalls that while rehearsals at the Craw-Daddy went well, by the time the gigs started in the evening, the Scotch whisky concealed in the harmonica case had done its job. Everything they’d learned at rehearsals was forgotten.

“We spent a very cold afternoon in the club working out stops, breaks, numbers and tempos. Then we recorded that night with Sonny Boy getting more and more pissed. When we got on stage it was nothing like the rehearsal, so none of the songs on the album have the band starting or finishing at the same time.”‘

It was the same experience for the Animals when they played with Sonny Boy at the Club A Go Go in Newcastle. At least the visiting celebrity didn’t try to play the drums with the Yardbirds, as he did on the Animals gig. “How we got the album together I don’t know,” says Chris. “I guess it was because Sonny Boy was so good.”

Edited to include

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2 Responses

  1. When the great blues luminaries toured the UK during the early sixties blues boom they were backed by pickup bands stocked with the best rhythm n blues musicians of the time.

    One of these was a schoolboy from Birmingham named Steve Winwood. By the time he was 13 he’d played with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Howlin’ Wolf, B. B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Eddie Boyd, Otis Spann, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.!!

    Then at 14 he joined the Spencer Davis group.

    Source: Wikipedia

  2. The music is better than the man!

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