“As for my advice to kids today, they are worried too much about what kind of guitar they have. I tell them, as long as it got the strings on it, play it. The guitar does not play itself. You got to play it. But the most important thing is you have to treat people right, to get treated right.” -Sonny Boy King
How We Helped:
Music Maker welcomed Sonny Boy King to its family of talented musicians in 2005, and the foundation has played a critical role in helping Sonny Boy obtain a passport and guitar, produce a CD called Alabama Bluesman, and play at the Byron Bay Blues Festival in Australia.
Sonny Boy King was born July 14, 1930, in rural Lowndes County, Alabama. He grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. King is a self-taught bluesman who honed his craft in clubs and house parties when he lived in Alabama, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland from 1946 into the 1970s.
In 1975, he moved back to his native Lowndes County. He’s known as a one-man band as he often performs pounding out sparse rhythms on his drum set as he sings and plays his harmonica and guitar.
“My name is Willie F. King. I go by Sunny, so folks don’t confuse me with my little cousin Willie from Aliceville, AL, who is out there playing the blues. I started playing guitar when I was 14 years old. I just started playing around Lyons County, Alabama at house parties. The only job I have had besides music was when I was a kid I worked at the sawmill as a water-boy.
When I was 15 we moved down to Birmingham and I started playing at house parties. That was back in the ‘50s, at cafes and fish fries and things like that. I have been supporting myself for the last 50 years with this guitar. I went down in Selma, then I traveled and played in Detroit and Chicago. As of late, people have been looking for me, but I have been laying low. Wild Child Butler called me the other day. He heard I was back out there. His mom used to have fish fries up in Detroit, and I used to play music there. I started him out on the harp when he was just a small boy. He grew up to be a great entertainer.
Since Music Maker got me that gig in Salinas, Kansas, I look forward to traveling and playing more. I like to play a good while when I get going. I don’t like to play no short time. I play drums, guitar, harp, stomp my feet. I have been a one-man band for about 40 years. I am a one-man show! I do all the music myself. Musicians like to play with me cause we are going to have some fun!
As for my advice to kids today, they are worried too much about what kind of guitar they have. I tell them, as long as it got the strings on it, play it. The guitar does not play itself. You got to play it. But the most important thing is you have to treat people right, to get treated right.”