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Williamson, Sonny Boylocked

(30 March 1914–01 June 1948)
  • Bill McCulloch
  •  and Barry Lee Pearson


Williamson, Sonny Boy (30 March 1914–01 June 1948), blues harmonica player, was born John Lee Curtis Williamson in Jackson, Tennessee, the son of Rafe Williamson and Nancy Utley, occupations unknown. His father died shortly before he was born, and he was raised by his mother, who later remarried. As a boy, Williamson sang with a gospel quartet at Blair’s Chapel CME Church on the outskirts of Jackson. When he was nine or ten, his mother gave him a harmonica, or mouth harp, as a Christmas gift, and he began teaching himself to play, starting with the gospel tunes he sang in church. At least two other Tennessee musicians later claimed to have known him then: John “Homesick James” Williamson, a guitarist from Somerville, said he and Williamson were boyhood friends, and James “Yank” Rachell, a mandolinist from Brownsville, claimed Williamson was a youngster riding a bicycle in Jackson when they met....

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