Chicago harp player Billy Boy learned from the best: legend has it that the kid knocked on John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson‘s door and asked him how he played the harp. The patrician Sonny Boy gave the 13-year-old some lessons, but that tutoring was cut short when the maestro was murdered soon afterwards. Billy Boy never strayed far from those roots as he went on to become something of a legend himself.
In 1975 a European tour with The American Blues Festival, alongside Bo Diddley and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, extended Billy Boy’s reputation ‘across the pond’. He toured Europe several times as a solo artist and cut an album ‘Ten Million Dollars’ for Black and Blue in France. At home in Chicago, Billy Boy made ends meet by working as a bus driver and later as a parole officer. He made a great comeback in 1993 when he signed for Alligator Records, and produced ‘Back Where I Belong’. True to the title, Billy Boy stormed through a collection of classics laced with some great compositions of his own. The follow-up ‘Eldorado Cadillac’, made with guitarists James Wheeler and Bob Margolin, repeated the formula. Other fine albums like ‘Boogie’n’Shuffle’ with Duke Robillard and ‘Blue and Lonesome’ in 2012 with Tony McPhee show that even in his seventies, Billy Boy can still cut it with that ‘Sonny Boy’ sound.