Clarence Edward Smith

b. November 11th, 1940 in Smithville (Texas)

FORT WORTH SHUFFLE

Krazy Kat

1961

Lorsqu'il a six ans, ses parents meurent dans un accident. Orphelin, il est recueilli par Leroy et Julia Smith. Guitariste depuis l'enfance, il est particulièrement influencé par "Pee Wee" Crayton, B.B. King et surtout L.C. Robinson (qui lui apprend la lap-steel guitare). Il porte fréquemment un turban comme Chick Willis. Sonny étudie à la Texas Southern University de Houston puis rejoint la Navy. De retour à la vie civile, il forme son propre groupe les Daylighters. Son premier titre est "Something is wrong" en 1961 pour le label Domino qu'on retrouve sur cette anthologie.

When he was six years old, his parents died in an accident. Orphaned, he is adopted by Leroy and Julia Smith. Guitarist since childhood, he is particularly influenced by "Pee Wee" Crayton, B.B. King and especially L.C. Robinson (who teaches him the lap-steel guitar). He frequently wears a turban like Chick Willis. Sonny studied at the Texas Southern University in Houston and then joined the Navy. Back in civil life, he formed his own group the Daylighters. His first track is "Something is wrong" in 1961 for the Domino label that can be found on this anthology.

ALL NIGHT LONG THEY PLAY THE BLUES

Fantasy

Ace

Specialty

BAD BAD WHISKEY

Fantasy

Specialty

June 1968

En 1963, avec sa femme Bettye, il s'installe en Californie à Fresno. L'année suivante, Sonny envoie une démo au label Galaxy qui lui fait signer un contrat. Il eut probablement l'appui de J.J. Malone qui était producteur pour ce label à l'époque. Le contrat débouchera sur trois simples gravés entre 1966 et 1968 sous le nom de Clarence Smith. Malheureusement, cette poignée de titres ne remporte aucun succès et fut très peu rééditée. Pourtant, on trouve les superbes "All night long they play the blues", "Country boy" ou le funky "You better stop". Une production réduite mais importante qui mériterait d'être réévaluée.

In 1963, with his wife Bettye, he settled in Fresno, California. The following year, Sonny sends a demo tape to the Galaxy label that leads to a recording contract. He probably had the support of J.J. Malone who was producer for this label at the time. The contract will lead to three single cut between 1966 and 1968 under the name of Clarence Smith. Unfortunately, this handful of titles was unsuccessful and was very little reissued. Yet, we find the superb "All night long they play the blues", "Country boy" or the funky "You better stop". A tiny but important production that deserves to be re-evaluated.

BLUE BAY

Messaround

August 1976

Comme sideman, il accompagne Albert Collins, Jimmy Mac Cracklin puis anime son propre club, House of Blue Light. Après un simple pour le label Cherrie en 1975, il grave deux très beaux titres (en particulier "Keep holding on") avec l'harmonica de Gary Smith. Les deux morceaux sont repris dans cette anthologie documentant la scène blues de San Francisco.

As a sideman, he accompanies Albert Collins, Jimmy Mac Cracklin and then runs his own club, House of Blue Light. After a single for the Cherrie label in 1975, he wrote two very beautiful tracks (in particular "Keep holding on") with Gary Smith's harmonica. Both pieces are included in this anthology documenting the San Francisco blues scene.

I DON'T WANT MY BLUES COLORED BRIGHT

Amigo

Advent

Black Magic

August 1976 / March 1977

En septembre 1975, Sonny participe à une tournée en Suède en compagnie de son ami L.C. Robinson et Floyd Dixon. Le label suédois Amigo lui propose alors d'enregistrer un album entier. Les séances ont lieu en aout 1976 et mars 1977 à San Francisco. Co-produit par Sonny Rhodes, J.J. Malone et Gary Smith, il s'agit d'un des grands albums de blues californien de cette période. Son jeu de guitare cinglant, à l'attaque puissante s'exprime avec force et feeling bien supporté par un superbe groupe (J.J. Malone, Gary Smith, Steve Gomes, Harold Banks) comprenant une section cuivres. "Take the bitter than the sweet", "Just got in", "All night long they play the blues", "Killing floor", "Country boy" et "Sitting and thinking" sont de vrais chefs d'oeuvre.

In september 1975, Sonny participated in a tour in Sweden with his friend L.C. Robinson and Floyd Dixon. The swedish label Amigo then proposes him to record an entire album. The sessions were held in august 1976 and march 1977 in San Francisco. Co-produced by Sonny Rhodes, J.J. Malone and Gary Smith, it is one of the great Californian blues albums of this period. His powerful guitar playing with its strong attack is full of strength and feeling and is well supported by a superb band (J.J. Malone, Gary Smith, Steve Gomes, Harold Banks) with a brass section. "Take the bitter than the sweet", "Just got in", "All night long they play the blues", "Killing floor", "Country boy" et "Sitting and thinking" are real masterpieces.

SAN FRANCISCO BLUES FESTIVAL : THE EUROPEAN SESSIONS

Paris Album

EPM

May 1980

En 1980, grâce à Tom Mazzolini, il prend part à une nouvelle tournée sur le sol européen. Le contenu du disque reste relativement mitigé à cause d'arrangements peu convaicants ("Mean mistreatin' mama" apparait plutôt plaisant).

In 1980, thanks to Tom Mazzolini, he took part in a new tour on European ground. The contents of the disc remain relatively mitigated due to unsuitable arrangements ("Mean mistreatin' mama" seems rather pleasant).

IN EUROPE

Appaloosa

May 1980

Lors de la même tournée européenne, il est enregistré sur une scène italienne. La qualité sonore n'est pas toujours bonne (notamment la voix). Parfois plaisant, le disque souffre surtout d'un flagrant manque d'inspiration et de concision.

During the same European tour, he is recorded on an Italian stage. Sound quality is not always good (especially his voice). Sometimes pleasant, the record suffers of a flagrant lack of inspiration and conciseness.

SAN FRANCISCO BLUES FESTIVAL IN EUROPE AGAIN

Paris Album

June 1982

FOREVER AND EVER

Paris Album

WON'T RAIN IN CALIFORNIA

EPM

July - September 1982

Gravé en France en 1982 au studio Davout (Paris) avec les Paris All Stars (le producteur-guitariste Larry Martin, Michel Carras, Paul Pechenaert, Zox) et un ensemble de cordes. Les orientations Disco-Funk ("I know how to party too", "Disco blues") ou Soul ("Trying to make a comeback for myself") sont peu convaincants dans ce disque très hétérogène.

Recorded in France in 1982 at the studio Davout (Paris) with The Paris All Stars (producer-guitarist Larry Martin, Michel Carras, Paul Pechenaert, Zox) and a strings ensemble. The Disco-Funk orientations ("I know how to party too", "Disco blues") or Soul ("Trying to make a comeback for myself") are not convincing in this very heterogeneous disc.

WON'T RAIN IN CALIFORNIA

Paris Album

EPM

December 1982

Mêmes musiciens et même producteur que pour l'album précédent "Forever and a day" quelques mois plus tôt. Les arrangements ne semblent pas plus réussis. Peu d'inspiration tout de même dans ce disque sans saveur.

Same musicians and same producer as for the previous album "Forever and a day" a few months earlier. The arrangements seem no more successful. Little inspiration in this flavorless record.

JUST BLUES

Rhodesway

Evidence

February - March 1985

Après des aventures européennes décevantes, Sonny Rhodes prend la décision au début de l'année 1985 de produire son propre album et crée pour cela son propre label Rhodesway. Il contacte alors son ami Dave Wellhausen qui lui prête son propre studio à San Francisco. Sonny produit l'album avec le guitariste Steve Gannon. Entouré de ses amis Troyce Key, J.J. Malone, Jerry "Cowboy" Haynes et des cuivres Bernard Anderson et Jonathan Paul, il délivre un disque remarquable et intense. On peut retenir ses reprises de "I can't lose", "Please love me" et de "Strange things happening" (repris à Percy Mayfield que Sonny admire) mais aussi une poignée de magnifiques compositions personnelles comme "Cigarette blues" et "House without love". Cet album ne bénéficiera, malheureusement, que d'une faible distribution et ne connaitra, par conséquent, que peu de succès.

After disappointing european adventures, Sonny Rhodes made the decision at the beginning of 1985 to produce his own album and created for it his own label Rhodesway. He then contacted his friend Dave Wellhausen who lent him his own studio in San Francisco. Sonny produced the album with guitarist Steve Gannon. Surrounded by his friends Troyce Key, J.J. Malone, Jerry "Cowboy" Haynes and horns Bernard Anderson and Jonathan Paul, he delivers a remarkable and intense record. "I can't lose", "Please love me" and "Strange things happening" (a Percy Mayfield's cover that Sonny admires) but also a handful of magnificent personal compositions like "Cigarette blues" and "House without love". This album will, unfortunately, benefit only from a small distribution and will therefore know little success.

LIVIN' TOO CLOSE TO THE EDGE

Ichiban

June 1989

A la fin des années 80, Sonny divorce d'avec Bettye et se remarie avec Annie (qui est aussi son manager). Pour ce premier album pour Ichiban, il est produit par Bob Greenlee (le début d'une longue collaboration entre les deux hommes). Sonny se montre très en forme au chant et à la guitare (y compris à la lap-steel) dans ce disque au son Soul-Blues vigoureux avec bel orchestre compact (comprenant son fidèle bassiste Gerald "Cowboy" Haynes). De superbes moments émaillent cet excellent programme : "Livin' too close to the edge", "Up above my head", "Sonny's theme", "House without love". On note les participations de Noble "Thin Man" Watts et Lucky Peterson.

In the late 1980's, Sonny divorced Bettye and married Annie (who is also his manager). For this first album for Ichiban, he is produced by Bob Greenlee (the beginning of a long collaboration between the two men). Sonny is vocally in fine form and on guitar (including lap-steel) as well in this album with a vigorous Soul-Blues sound with a fine compact backing band (including his faithful bassist Gerald "Cowboy" Haynes). Great moments are spread in this excellent program : "Livin' too close to the edge", "Up above my head", "Sonny's theme", "House without love". We note the contributions of Noble "Thin Man" Watts and Lucky Peterson.

DISCIPLE OF THE BLUES

Ichiban

1991

Second album pour Ichiban (sur la marque Wild Dog) et le producteur Bob Greenlee, on trouve le même cocktail de Soul-Blues puissant avec quelques touches Funk. A l'image de "Livin' too close to the edge", la set-list s'avère solide et variée avec quelques excellents moments : "Ain't nothing but the blues", "Cigarette blues", "Ain't no blues in town".

Second album for Ichiban (on the Wild Dog imprint) and producer Bob Greenlee, we find the same powerful Soul-Blues cocktail with some Funk elements. Like the "Livin' too close to the edge", the set-list is solid and varied with some excellent moments : "Ain't nothing but the blues", "Cigarette blues", "Ain't no blues in town".

THE BLUES IS MY BEST FRIEND

King Snake

1994

Sonny suit son producteur Bob Greenlee sur son propre label King Snake. Sa musique reste dans la ligne de ses albums Ichiban, c'est à dire une Soul-Blues bien trempée avec quelques éléments de Rhythm & Blues. Son chant demeure toujours magnifique et sa guitare mordante. Un album remarquable.

Sonny follows his producer Bob Greenlee on his own label King Snake. His music remains in line with his Ichiban albums, i.e. a powerful Soul-Blues with some Rhythm & Blues elements. His singing is always beautiful and his guitar biting. A remarkable album.

KING SNAKE - BLUES ON THE HIGH SEAS : LIVE

King Snake

September 1995

Deux bons morceaux en concert avec la participation de Kenny Neal.

Two good tracks in concert with the participation of Kenny Neal.

OUT OF CONTROL

King Snake

1996

Soul-Blues avec section cuivres dans la continuité de "The blues is my best friend", son précédent album. "Pickin' your bones", "Dollar bill woman", "Woman abuse", "Drink muddy water" (avec Kenny Neal et ses frères) méritent assurément l'écoute.

Soul-Blues with horn section in the continuity of "The blues is my best friend", his previous album. "Pickin' your bones", "Dollar bill woman", "Woman abuse", "Drink muddy water" (with Kenny Neal and his brothers) certainly deserve listening.

RHYTHM ROOM BLUES

Hightone

June 1997

Un titre ("Livin' too close to the edge") sur la scène du Rhythm Room, le club de Bob Corritore.

A title ("Livin' too close to the edge") on the Rhythm Room stage, the Bob Corritore's club.

HOUSE ROCKIN' AND BLUES SHOUTIN'

Blue Witch

June 1997

Nouveau titre ("My bleeding heart") sur la scène du Rhythm Room de Phoenix.

Another song ("My bleeding heart") on the Rhythm Room scene in Phoenix.

TEXAS FENDER BENDER

Greater Planet

September 1997

BORN TO BE BLUE

King Snake

1997

Comme d'habitude, Sonny livre un disque consistant et inspiré qui mérite l'écoute. Des titres accrocheurs dans son style propre : "Born to be blue", "End of my hope", "Hide that wine", "I'd rather be hot than cool", "Five day rain" parmi d'autres. Il s'agit de son dernier disque pour King Snake.

As usual, Sonny delivers a consistent and inspired record that deserves to be listened to. Some catchy titles in his own style : "Born to be blue", "End of my hope", "Hide that wine", "I'd rather be hot but cool", "Five day rain" among others. This is his last album for King Snake.

BLUE DIAMOND

Stony Plain

November 1998 - January 1999

Sonny change de label après une belle collaboration avec King Snake. Il passe alors chez Stony Plain - un label canadien dirigé par Holger Petersen - mais conserve son producteur Bob Greenlee et la plupart de ses musiciens. Un disque correct avec quelques bons moments ("Blues is my religion") et d'autres plus poussifs. A noter une intéressante interview de Sonny Rhodes à la fin du CD.

Sonny changed label after a fine collaboration with King Snake. He then moved to Stony Plain - a Canadian label directed by Holger Petersen - but kept his producer Bob Greenlee and most of his musicians. A decent record with some good moments ("Blues is my religion") and others more dull. Note an interesting interview of Sonny Rhodes at the end of the CD.

THEN AND NOW

Blues Express

December 1999

A GOOD DAY TO PLAY THE BLUES

Stony Plain

2001

Un disque bien produit - son deuxième chez Stony Plain - qui s'écoute avec plaisir. On peut ressortir "Love and harmony", "She's not happy unless she's sad", "Ten pounds of love" et "I bleed blues".

A well produced record - his second for Stony Plain - which can be listened with pleasure. We can point out "Love and harmony", "She's not happy unless she's sad", "Ten pounds of love" and "I bleed blues".

I'M BACK AGAIN

Feelin' Good

2008

Comme le titre l'indique, il s'agit réellement du retour aux affaires de Sonny Rhodes après plusieurs années d'absence sur un label italien. Sa voix a perdu de sa puissance et de la souplesse mais reste tout de même expressive. Moins présent à la guitare, il laisse beaucoup d'espace à ses invités harmonicistes : R.J. Mischo, Johnny Sansone, Brian Templeton. Un album, malgré tout, plutôt plaisant avec quelques titres à écouter : "Travelling bluesman", "Can't dance boogie", "Smithville Texas" sans oublier la reprise décoiffante de "Shake your hips".

As the title indicates, it is really Sonny Rhodes back to business album after several years of absence on an Italian label. His voice has lost its power and flexibility but remains nonetheless expressive. Less present on the guitar, he leaves plenty of space for his harmonicist guests : R.J. Mischo, Johnny Sansone, Brian Templeton. An album, despite everything, quite pleasant with some tracks to listen : "Traveling bluesman", "Can't dance boogie", "Smithville Texas" without forgetting the exciting cover of "Shake your hips".

THE ESSENTIAL SONNY RHODES : SONGS AND STORIES

Need to Know Music

2017

Retrospective de sa carrière avec Rich Kirch, Barry Goldberg, Frank Swart et Dawn Richardson, produite par Brian Brinkerhoff et Frank Swart. Sonny raconte quelques anecdotes sur sa vie entrecoupées de reprises de certains de ses morceaux. Globalement en forme, il propose ici un intéressant panorama de son blues malgré une voix limitée.

Retrospective of his career with Rich Kirch, Barry Goldberg, Frank Swart and Dawn Richardson, produced by Brian Brinkerhoff and Frank Swart. Sonny tells a few anecdotes about his life interspersed with covers of some of his tracks. Overall in good shape, he offers here an interesting overview of his blues in spite of a limited voice.