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Tue, 10.24.1911

Bluesman Sonny Terry, internationally popular

Sonny Terry

This date marks the birth of Sonny Terry, born in 1911. He was an African American blues singer and harmonica player who became the touring and recording partner of guitarist Brownie McGhee in 1941.

Saunders Terrell (His name at birth) was born in Greensboro, GA. blinded in a childhood accident, Terry was raised by musical parents and he developed a harmonica style that imitated sounds ranging from moving trains to barnyard animals, often using his voice while playing these effects. The harmonica player, DeFord Bailey, who broadcast nationally on the radio program Grand Ole Opry, influenced him. Terry traveled as an itinerant musician from 1929 through the 1930s, working with Blind Boy Fuller and recording with him in 1937-40.

Terry first met McGhee in 1939, and in 1940 performed with him and the singer Paul Robeson in Washington, D. C. Terry and McGhee first recorded together in 1941. Subsequently they recorded extensively and toured internationally, becoming a popular attraction in nightclubs, concerts, and folk, blues, and heritage festivals. During his long career, Terry also performed with such bluesmen as Blind Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Big Bill Broonzy.

Terry appeared in the Broadway musical “Finian's Rainbow” (1947-48) and the play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1955-57). Sonny Terry died March 11, 1986, in Mineola, New York.

Reference:
Nothing but the Blues: The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York
ISBN 1-55859-271-7

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