Sonny Rhodes has received accolades nationwide for his legendary style of singing and playing lap steel guitar. His talent, coupled with his engaging personality, has earned him the reputation for being a "musician's musician."
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Christened Clarence Edward Smith, he grew up listening to the music from the churches around Smithville, Texas. His parents held aspirations for their youngest child to be an attorney or minister. However, as a young boy Rhodes fell in love with the blues, listening to Bessie Smith and Lightnin' Hopkins while he cranked the Victrola at family social gatherings. It was not until 1949 that the blues Sonny Rhodes felt was a reality. As Sonny recalls, "That was the year that we had a bad crop, and we didn't get any Christmas presents. Being the youngest of six, I cried. The guy we used to pick cotton for heard me crying. He had an old guitar in his barn and gave it to me." Rhodes received his first electric guitar from his mother and learned to play while emulating the styles of T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, and Chuck Willis.
Nurtured in Texas cotton country, Rhodes wanted out of the fields, so he joined the Navy after high school. Upon his return to Texas he worked as a bass player for Freddie King and Albert Collins. In 1961 he formed his own band and made his first recording for the Austin-based Domino label. In 1963 he left Texas for Fresno, California and eventually settled in Oakland. After nearly thirty years on the blues scene, Rhodes continues to tour internationally. He has been honored by the Smithsonian Institute for his cultural contribution to the arts. Even with an achievement of this magnitude under his turban, Rhodes is not about to rest on his laurels. In 1991 Rhodes released "DISCIPLE OF THE BLUES" on Ichiban's Wild Dog label, which received rave reviews and further established his place as a stalwart on the blues scene. His follow-up, "LIVING TOO CLOSE TO THE EDGE", once again displayed his expertise as a singer and guitar player. And in 1994, the spotlight was focused on Sonny Rhodes as he celebrated the release of "THE BLUES IS MY BEST FRIEND" on King Snake Records. This new recording showcased Rhodes's extraordinary vocals, which easily run from raw growls to smooth lilts. This is augmented by his now-legendary guitar style. This third CD features special guest, saxophone king Noble "Thin Man" Watts, who adds his unique style of horn arrangements to the release. Sonny will continue to tour constantly throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, bringing his stunning vocal and guitar talents to an eager sea of blues fans; not to mention this fourth release on King Snake Records, "OUT OF CONTROL", which reached Number 2 on the Hard Report and made the Living Blues Chart's Top 25 albums of 1996. After listening to Sonny Rhodes testify, one will begin to understand the truly special relationship this man has with his music, And to prove it:
How about the fact that he's a 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 Handy Award nominee for his lap steel?
This man don't play no junk!
SONNY RHODES REVIEWS:
"Rhodes's singing is impressive, with a growl used sparingly and to good effect. His leads are commanding but not overly ornate, with a slightly fuzzed tone. The arrangements, material and musicianship all come together in a strong, seamless unity. Fine work from a talented musician."
"Every good blues collection should have at least some Sonny Rhodes."
"All hail this fine bluesman who's out on the icy roads of America keeping the blues alive."
Blues Society of Indiana
"The music is as classy and eloquent as Mr. Rhodes himself, a bluesman in control of all variations of blues beats, along with the unique lap steel guitar as an instrumental voice to accompany his own gruff, hoarse and knowing vocalizing...a solid effort...Good work."
"Rhodes feels the blues should be as much entertaining as emotional outpouring. Good thing. His fine new disc, "Out of Control" (King Snake) has deep wells of both...No doubt, the man has history, and the chops to match...there's hard evidence that Rhodes can write and play the blues with the best contemporary practitioners.
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