blues music live in Canada
tours Western Canada
Blues Legend Sonny Rhodes Makes You Believe
Renowned lap steel guitarist Sonny Rhodes tours western Canada over the next months, performing for legions of fans built up over the many years he’s been appearing at clubs and festivals across the nation.
Calgary fans, who have a long-standing love affair with the musician from his numerous performances at the famed King Eddy, had a special treat on Saturday afternoon when the 72 year old bluesman dropped in to the Morgan’s jam to sit in with the band. Rhodes, who was on a day off from traveling and performing, as ever wowed the audience with his scorching guitar and resonant voice. He wowed us industry types with his show of support for the local scene, noting his presence at this grassroots level made a deep impression on both fans and up-and-coming players. Everything about the man makes you believe in the power of the blues, from his inspiring performances to his gentle, humble interaction with adoring fans, both touching the spirit in a profound way.
A true road warrior, Rhodes performs 250 to 300 dates a year across North America and beyond, his calendar filled by his booking agent Annie, who also happens to be his wife of 40 years and the mother of their 7 children. Together they now have 23 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Born Clarence Smith on November 3, 1940 in Smithville, Texas, he was the 6th and last child of sharecropper parents Leroy and Julia Smith. He began playing seriously when he was 12, although he received his first guitar as a Christmas present when he was eight. Rhodes began performing around downtown Smithville and Austin in the late ’50s, while still in his teens. Sonny heard a lot of T-Bone Walker when he was young, and it shows in his playing today. Other guitarists he credits as being influences include LC Robinson, Pee Wee Crayton, Percy Mayfield and BB King. Sonny’s first band, Clarence Smith and the Daylighters, played the Austin Texas area Blues clubs before Sonny decided to join the Navy. Sonny credits his legally blind uncle as his greatest influence and learning source.
As a boy, he would watch his uncle in downtown Smithville buskin’ for change at a place called Wino’s Corner. The young Rhodes paid special attention to both his uncle’s Blues licks and the sound of coins being tossed into his uncle’s hat. “I was working the cotton field all week as a kid and I was only getting 50 cents a day. I realized that could make way more money than that in about 15 minutes playing on the street corner. Then I figured something was wrong with that picture,” says Sonny.
His recording career began in 1958 with the single When Something is Wrong (Domino Records) in Austin. He also picked up the bass at that time, going on to play with Freddie King and his friend Albert Collins.
After a stint in the Navy, Sonny returned to California while in his 20s, and lived in Fresno a few years before hooking up with Galaxy Records in Oakland, with whom he released several singles. In 1978, he recorded the “Cigarette Blues” on his own label, Rhodesway Records, best known as the theme song for the television series Firefly. Sonny toured Europe in 1976, opening up the market and recording for several European labels.
The ’80s saw him recording for the Ichiban and Kingsnake labels, and in the nineties, his most prolific period to date, saw the creation of eight new recordings. His latest, Texas Fender Bender, was released in 2003 on Greater Planet.
for more information visit www.sonnyrhodes.com
Sonny Rhodes upcoming Canadian dates:
16, 17 Waverly Hotel, Cumberland BC
23, 24 Shamrock Hotel, Calgary AB
9 – 14 Commercial Hotel, Edmonton AB
20, 21 Arlington Hotel, Red Deer AB
27, 28 The Blue Gator, Kelowna BC