Monday, May 21, 2007

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee !



Yeeehaaa, I'm back.
You're all happy, aren't you.
Well, you should be.

Brownie McGhee was born Walter Brown McGhee in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1915 and suffered from polio as a child, which incapacitated his leg.
His Brother is of course Stick ‘Spo-Dee-O-Dee‘ McGhee.
Sonny 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.
McGhee first met Sonny Terry in North Carolina in 1939 and worked with him and singer Paul Robeson in Washington, DC, in 1940. McGhee began to record for Okeh Records in 1940. He had Sonny Terry play on his recording session of Workingman's Blues, and a long-standing partnership was formed. Shortly after they relocated and broke into the New York Folk scene, working alongside Leadbelly, Josh White, and Woody Guthrie.
From 1942 to 1950 McGhee also ran his own music school, 'Home of the Blues', in Harlem. After the end of WWII, he began to record, both with and without Sonny Terry, for a myriad of R&B labels: Savoy, Alert, London, Derby, Dot, and Harlem.
Sonny Terry was doing the same with recordings for Jackson, Red Robin, RCA Victor, Groove, Harlem, Old Town, and Ember, usually with McGhee on guitar !
They were among the first Blues artists to tour Europe during the 1950s and recording to the early-'60s albums for Folkways, Choice, World Pacific, Bluesville, and Fantasy. They also toured with many Folk festivals in America, Canada and Europe, appearing on television and movies.
Both Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry continued to record solo as well as together. McGhee appeared in Tennessee Williams' play 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' on Broadway, 1955-57, and recorded several motion-picture soundtracks, and in 1987, McGhee gave a small but memorable performance as ill-fated blues singer, Toots Sweet, in the brilliantissimo Alan Parker's Angel Heart.
Anyway, they finally parted their ways in the mid-1970's due to personal problems. Sonny Terry continued to play and record, passing away in 1986. Brownie McGhee carried on for the next 10 years performing festivals and recording. His final appearance was at the Chicago Blues festival in 1995 before passing Feb.16, 1996, Oakland, California.

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee:
* Rock Island Line *
* Rockin' & Whoopin' *
* Red River Blues *

17 Comments:

Blogger Scurvy said...

I love Sonny Terry's style of whoopin' and wailin'. I used to listen to him quite a bit, but most of my old tapes are lost due to moves, or time degradation. Thanks for the tunes.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous link said...

Sonny & Brownie were (as you mentioned) a part of the festival circuit in Europe in the 1960's. Recording magnificent television performances in front of an enthusiastic but very polite respectful crowd. The two werent used to such treatment of blues singers in thier own country. Thanks to 'Reelin In The Years' Productions, all the performances are available on the DVD format - The American Folk Blues Festival - Highly recommended!
Thanks as always for the excellent songs of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee.

2:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll want to check out John Cephas & Phil Wiggins sometime.

4:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

brilliant as always ;-)

2:15 PM  
Blogger Chris & Jan said...

I saw these two at the Sydney (Australia) Town Hall many years ago - they were brilliant!
I will never forget they walked off the stage singing "Walk On" & you could still hear them from backstage for quite some time - this was before radio mics.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Reverend Frost said...

Thanks for the comments folks !
Link, I'm already tryin' to get them all !

9:29 PM  
Blogger The DoorKeeper said...

bgkqcThat's Brownie McGhee in "Angel Heart"

thanks for the tip - I'm off to the video shop.

-- wait we don't have a video shop. I'll get a DVD __

11:32 PM  
Blogger Reverend Frost said...

^_^ I didn't insist too much on that, but I must have seen Angel Heart at least 300 times. And I sing 'Girl of my dreams' at every gig. Bring the evil in rock'n'roll !

9:26 AM  
Blogger Bwca said...

I came here to add to your "They also toured with many Folk festivals in America, Canada and Europe, appearing on television and movies." that they also toured Australia in 1966 (and again later), but I see that 'Chris & Jan' above, have mentioned seeing them Sydney.
A beautiful uplifting and pure music.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous E said...

Brownie Mcghee also played a blues legend (the fictional "Eddie Dupre") on an episode (Ep#142 "The Blues Brother" Originally Aired 01/24/1988) of Family Ties. Apparently Alex (Michael J. Fox) was the host of a radio show and he played blues songs, and Mcghee's character called into the show.

It's a good episode.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Reverend Frost said...

*Bwca, Brownie?
*ah, Mr E's beautiful blues !

9:57 PM  
Anonymous music lover said...

Great blues!

Btw, did you know there's now a fourth afbf volume called the british
tours 1963-66 ?

2:55 AM  
Blogger Bwca said...

February 16th 2009

anniversaire de la mort.
Yes Rev c'est moi Brownie
(blogger of many a.k.a's)

1966 was the year I discovered Country Blues' due in part to Melbourne Australia performances of
Sonny & Brownie; and just this weekend I was in a tiny town 5 hours driving out of the city, for a 12th Annual Blues Festival where the stage was a flatbed truck in the main street. A genuine 1920's National steel-front was played to great effect.
May you be singing 'Girl Of My Dreams' many times again.
X X X HG

10:09 PM  
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7:02 AM  
Anonymous Mikael said...

Hi! Great info on Sonny Terry! I´m desperatly looking for a vinyl recording with ST and Brownie McGhee: Live in Montreux 196? (-67,68 or 69).
It´s really special and different. You know it? I´ve tried googling but can´t find it anywhere. I´ve seen 2 records, one in Stockholm Sweden and the other in London. Have you got any idea where to find it? Mail me at mickeoe@hotmail.SE !

4:59 PM  
Blogger VandAl said...

Re Chris & Jan's comment about the Sydney Town Hall concert - I saw it on TV (ABC I think) and that last song left me gobsmacked! The show also had inserts of interviews with both of them and I recorded the audio to a cassette. The cassette is long gone but if the audio (or video) of that show is anywhere I would love to get hold of a copy.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Reverend Frost said...

Damn vandal! I'd LOVE to have it too !
Mikael, I know they played in Montreux in 1973, and yep, I KNOW there's a recording somewhere...

10:36 AM  

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