Billy Boy Arnold

September 16, 1935 –

Recording history: 1950’s for Cool/Vee-Jay, 1960’s for Testament/Prestige, 1970’s for Black & Blue, 1990’s for Alligator, 2000’s for Stony Plain/Electro-Fi

Also recorded with: Bo Diddley, Johnny Jones, Jody Williams

Important/historic recordings: “I Wish You Would”, “I Ain’t Got You'”, “Kissin’ At Midnight”, “Rockinitis”

Random fact: Though Billy Boy Arnold is primarily thought of as a post-war Chicago Blues harmonica stylist, his playing often pays tribute directly (check out the “Billy Boy Sings Sonny Boy” release on Electro-Fi) and indirectly to John Lee Williamson AKA Sonny Boy Williamson #1…a man he was able to take some personal harmonica lessons from!

About: Born William Arnold in Chicago. Around the time he was becoming a teenager, he sought out and was able to take some harmonica instruction from then harmonica superstar – John Lee Williamson – not long before Williamson’s untimely death. While still a teen, Billy Boy Arnold made a record for the Cool label and recorded harmonica behind Bo Diddley on his famous “Bo Diddley”/”I’m A Man” record on the Chess label. Not long after, Billy Boy signed on with the Vee-Jay label, and made a series of now-classic records such as “I Wish You Would”, “I Ain’t Got You”, “Prisoner’s Plea” and “Rockinitis”.

While he made a few recordings in the 1960’s & 1970’s, the following couple decades proved to be fairly unproductive (musically speaking), as it was for many talented blues artists. In the 1990’s Billy Boy signed with Alligator Records and made somewhat of a “comeback” to the international blues scene. A few fine releases on Alligator, and more recently with Stony Plain & Electro-Fi, have put Billy Boy Arnold back on the blues map in recent years. You can still find him performing a mix of his classic 1950’s compositions and his new material.

Recommended Recordings in-print:

  • “More Blues On The Southside” - Prestige (solid early 1960’s recording)
  • “Goin’ To Chicago” - Testament (good recordings from the 1960’s)
  • “Back Where I Belong” - Alligator (good “comeback” recording)
  • “Billy Boy Sings Sonny Boy” - Electro-Fi (acclaimed newer recording)
  • “Consolidated Mojo” – Electro-Fi (good recent recording)

I’ve found the best selection of blues harmonica CDs to be available at:

blues harmonica, blues harp, lessons, history

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