Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Mystery Of The Two Sonny Boy Williamsons

Nowadays it would be called “identity theft”, but when he took the name Sonny Boy Williamson in the early 40s – a moniker already held by a distinguished blues singer and harmonica player who had been born in Tennessee on 30 March 1914 – the man born Aleck Ford, in Glendora, Mississippi, knew exactly what he was doing.
Alex or Aleck Miller (né Ford, possibly December 5, 1912 – May 24, 1965), known later in his career as Sonny Boy Williamson, was an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter.
He was an early and influential blues harp stylist who recorded successfully in the 1950s and 1960s. Miller used various names, including Rice Miller and Little Boy Blue, before calling himself Sonny Boy Williamson, which was also the name of a popular Chicago blues singer and harmonica player. To distinguish the two, Miller has been referred to as Sonny Boy Williamson II. It is believed that Miller adopted the name to suggest to audiences (and to his first record label) that he was the "original" Sonny Boy.
The cynical act of mimicry was designed to further his career, and, decades later, the exploit prompted a funny and moving song on Randy Newman’s excellent album Dark Matter. On ‘Sonny Boy’, Newman sings from the perspective of the man now known as Sonny Boy Williamson I, about how “This man stole my name/He stole my soul”.

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