Mississippi born James Pryor learned to play Blues harp from listening to records, despite the objections of his devout father. During Military service, Snooky played bugle, and after blowing his ‘calls’ through the PA at his camp, he would blow his harp too, making him an early exponent of ‘electric harp’. Snooky was discharged from the Army after WWII near Chicago, and he went into town and started blowing his harp around the Southside clubs with Homesick James and Floyd Jones. His hard, penetrating tone could cut through the bar-room clamour like a knife, so it is no surprise that he was picked up by Planet Records where his ‘Telephone Blues’ was a hit in 1948. Snooky played, recorded and did session work around Chicago for many years, but spent the 60s as a carpenter in downstate Illinois.
He enjoyed a revival with the Folk/Blues Festival tours of Europe and after a second period of ‘retirement’, Blind Pig Records lured him back into the studio in 1987. He recorded several acclaimed albums of original and classic material, including two outstanding sessions for Antone‘s label cut at his famous club in Austin, Texas, alongside Pinetop Perkins and Duke Robillard. Snooky stayed active on the Chicago scene until his last days, which came in 2006.