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Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: “Walk On”

The nicely done bio of the duo at Concord Music Group is quite affectionate:

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were the most beloved and influential duo in blues history. Saunders Terrell (1911-1986) was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Walter Brown McGhee (1915-1996) in Knoxville, Tennessee. Terry was blind, and McGhee walked with a pronounced limp.

Though they played the blues, they seem pretty close to a folk cross over. The bio mentions playing on campuses and at coffee houses and some people more closely associated with the folk scene, such as Pete Seeger. Here are Hootin’ Blues, Easy Riders and Sun’s Gonna Shine.

At the end of Hootin’ Blues, McGhee explains the blues and suggests that listening to Memphis Slim will lead to a better understanding. That sounds like a great idea, so here is Slim’s Everyday I Have the Blues.


Editor’s note: This site cross-posts at Daily Kos. A commenter who goes by the name of enhydra lutris was kind enough to offer this great background:

Folk Blues, Urban blues and all that, there was an original regional genre known as the Piedmont Blues. Sonny & Brownie have deep early roots in Piedmont Blues.

A Piedmont Blues great was Blind Boy Fuller. Sonny played with him regularly during his early career. Brownie became his friend and Fuller gave (or bequeathed) Brownie one of his guitars. After Fuller died, Okeh had Brownie do some recordings as “Blind Boy Fuller No. 2.”
After Fuller died, Sonny & Brownie began working together (back in the forties). The “folk revival” included blues, which is a folk idiom, and led to a major blues revival. Since both were very much a product of the same listening audience, both blues and folk musicians regularly played at the same venues and even appeared at the same events.

There is a 2 or 3 CD set “The complete Brownie McGhee” or somesuch title that doesn’t include any work with Sonny Terry, but is all prior to that combination. My guess is that the producers didn’t have rights to Sonny’s music, but that is only a guess. Lots of old Okeh stuff, very funky. It includes a period when the headliners weren’t the guitarists, but the guys on harp and washboard.