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 harmonicists 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.(From Blues Harp)
Today we can remember that joyous whoop and celebrate the 102nd birthday of one of my favorite acoustic blues musicians Sonny Terry. Sonny was born in Greensboro, North Carolina and started his blues career playing in the trio of Blind Boy Fuller. He played with Fuller until Fuller’s death in 1941. After Fuller died Terry began playing with Brownie McGhee and as they say the rest is folk history!!
Saunders Terrell, better known as Sonny Terry (24 October 1911 – 11 March 1986) 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 died from natural causes at Mineola, New York, in March 1986, the year he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame (Wikipedia)
IThe Best of Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry is in my music library and the memory lingers of driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway singing along to songs from Brownie and Terry like “Walk On”, “Down by the Riverside”, “Blues from the Lowland” and “Blowin’ The Fuses” ! Boy, what a great blues harp player!
So Happy Birthday Sonny- Hope you and Brownie have a nice day!!
Sources and Links
Here’s the song that’s stuck in my head this morning – Pete Seeger, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry perform “Down by the Riverside”