This one goes out to two fantastic people… Sam Behrens and Shari Belafonte. We had the great pleasure of meeting them through the Lili Claire Foundation and then became friends… Such good friends, in fact, that they gave us our dog… one of the true loves our lives.
Ironically, their name for our pooch at first was McKee… because she was the only brown one in the litter. So our dog’s full name is Bozie McGhee.
I picked up on it right away, because I was a fan… and THAT is thanks to Fred. Sorry, Fred but I am blanking on your last name… as it is well over thirty years since we have seen each other. I met Fred at Camp Ramaquois, where we were both working as counselors, and when he saw that I loved playing the harp, he started telling me stories of his time spent with Sonny Terry. They were great stories, and most importantly, they got me hooked on his playing… Sonny, James Cotton and Junior Wells are the three harp players I listened to most… and the ones I really learned from.
So it also goes out to Fred!
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee – Absolutely The Best
It’s late right now… but this music is sooooo making me want to grab my harps and try to play along… But I am a long ways off from getting that Sonny Terry sound…This is a great collection to start with… but considering they did something like 40 albums together, you will have ample opportunity to explore as deep as you like.
Then again, trying to get there is half the fun!
AllMusic says this about the duo…
“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.”
This is folk blues at its best… Mmm, mmm, mmm!