SuperTalk Mississippi

Sonny Boy Williamson II Gets Miss. Blues Trail Marker in Helena Ark.

HELENA, Ark. — The Mississippi Blues Trail is not just in Mississippi. Thursday, another marker went up in Helena, Arkansas to recognize Sonny Boy Williamson II. That is where he lived and performed most of his life. Williamson was best known for his songwriting and to some he was known as the king of harmonica.

He was born Alex (pronounced Aleck) Miller in Tallahatchie County in 1912 on the Sara Jones Plantation.

He began performing in the 1930s and would entertain the crowd by playing the harmonica with no hands.

In 1941 he was hired to play on the King Biscuit Time radio show on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas where he got the name Sonny boy Williamson, because the sponsors were trying to capitalize on another musician from Chicago with the same name. The name ended up sticking which is why he is usually referred to as Sonny Boy Williamson the second.

In 1949 he moved to Memphis where he lived with his sister and her husband Howlin’ Wolf. He started his own radio show on KWEM while living there.

In the 60s Williamson toured Europe during the height of the European blues craze. He was backed bands like The Yardbirds (featuring Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page) and The Animals.

After his return to the U.S., Williamson returned to Helena and resumed playing on the King Biscuit Time radio show and performed around the area. In 1965 he died from a heart attack in his sleep.

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