Sonny Boy Williamson ISonny Boy Williamson I was born on March 20th, 1914 in Madison County, Tennessee. His birth name was John Lee Curtis Williamson and is not to be confused with the later musician named Sonny Boy Williamson II. In his teens he joined Yank Rachell and Sleepy John Estes, performing in Tennessee and Arkansas.
In 1934 he moved to Chicago.
In 1937 he recorded his first record for Bluebird Records, the song "Good Morning, School Girl". The song would become a blues standard. Other songs include "Sugar Mama Blues", "Shake the Boogie", "You Better Cut That Out", "Sloppy Drunk", "Early in the Morning", "Stop Breaking Down", and "Hoodoo Hoodoo".
In 1947, "Shake the Boogie" made number 4 on Billboard's Race Records chart.
Williamson recorded mainly for Bluebird, as both a bandleader and a sideman. Before Bluebird moved to Chicago, where it eventually became part of RCA Records, many early sessions took place at the hotel Leland Tower in Aurora, Illinois. The top floor at the Leland was a nightclub called the Sky Club, which was used for live broadcasts of big bands on a local radio station and, during off hours, served as a recording studio for Williamson's early sessions.
Williamson was a highly influential blues harmonica player and he infuenced blues harmonica artists such as Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor. His music was also influential on non-harmonica-playing contemporaries and successors such as Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers.
On June 1, 1948, Williamson was killed in a robbery on Chicago's South Side, as he walked home from a performance at the Plantation Club, at 31st St. and Giles Avenue, a tavern just a block and a half from his home at 3226 S. Giles. Williamson's final words are reported to have been "Lord have mercy".