Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sonny Boy Williamson II - Your Funeral and My Trial, and Bye Bye Bird

Sonny Boy Williamson II ( 1899? - 1965) was born on a plantation in Mississippi.  His birth name was Aleck Ford, but he took the last name of his stepfather, Miller.  He later called himself many other names, and finally settled on Sonny Boy Williamson to capitalize on the success of Blues singer and harmonica player John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. He is now referred to as Sonny Boy Williamson II or 'the second' to differentiate between the two.

Sonny Boy Williamson was a virtuoso harmonica player, blues singer and songwriter. He lead the life of a blues man, playing music wherever he went, even on street corners.  He got his big break when he was hired on with other blues players to play on the King Biscuit Time radio program in Helena, Arkansas sponsored by King Biscuit Flour. In the early 1960's he toured Europe along with other blues men.

Parts of Sonny Boy's life remained a mystery. No one is sure of the year of his birth, and he spread so many falsehoods about himself during his life that no definitive biography is possible.

The Blues is a genre of music that goes right to the heart of what it is to be human. All of us have had the blues about one thing or the other, and the blues man (or woman) expresses this humanness in musical language and lyrics in a direct way, with no frills. Blues music contains some of the richest, most expressive music known. It takes a back seat to no other genre, it is an art form in itself, as Sonny Boy shows with the following two songs.

Your Funeral and My Trial

Please come home to your daddy, and explain yourself to me
Because I and you are man and wife, tryin' to start a family
I'm beggin' you baby, cut out that off the wall jive
If you can't treat me no better, it gotta be your funeral and my trial
When I and you first got together, 't was on one Friday night
We spent two lovely hours together, and the world knows allright
I'm just beggin' you baby, please cut out that off the wall jive
You know you gotta treat me better, if you don't it gotta be your funeral and my trial
The good Lord made the world and everything was in it
The way my baby love is some solid sentiment
She can love to heal the sick and she can love to raise the dead
You think I'm jokin' but you better believe what I say
I'm beggin' you baby, cut out that off the wall jive
Yeh you gotta treat me better, or it gotta be your funeral and my trial.

In the song Bye Bye Bird,  Sonny Boy's 'harp' sound takes center stage. It is amazing how much he can get out of such a small instrument. He also shows his showmanship as he puts the harp into his mouth, continues to blow it while he snaps and claps out a rhythm accompaniment.

Bye Bye Bird

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