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Billy Boy Arnold live at the Hondarribia Blues Festival, Hondarribia, Spain
Billy Boy Arnold
Born September_15, 1935 in Chicago, Billy Boy is one of the prime architects of the electric Chicago-blues sound of the ’50s and a major influence on the British blues revival of the ’60s. He remains an active and vital blues artist in the 21st century, touring and recording regularly. At 13, Billy Boy was captivated by the music of the original Sonny Boy, John Lee Williamson, and visited Sonny Boy at his home in Chicago for a series of informal harmonica lessons just before Williamson’s untimely death in 1948. Billy Boy’s recording debut was the 45-rpm Hello Stranger b/w I Ain’t Got No Money, released in 1952 on Chicago’s Cool label. After teaming with street musician Ellas McDaniel (a.k.a. Bo Diddley) and moving to Chess, Billy Boy played harp on the March 1955 classic I’m a Man. Not content to be a sideman, Billy Boy signed to VeeJay and recorded the original versions of I Wish You Would and I Ain’t Got You—both later covered by Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds. I Wish You Would was also covered by David Bowie on his 1973 LP Pin Ups. The early ’60s were a difficult period for many Chicago-blues artists—music gigs began to dry up in Chicago—and Billy Boy found work driving a bus and as a parole officer for the State of Illinois. By the early ’70s, the blues revival put Billy Boy back in action, touring Europe and the U.K. Since then, he’s recorded for Alligator, Stony Plain, Electro-Fi and Raisin’ Music. Billy Boy is one of the last of the Chicago-blues originals and one of the most important and treasured exponents of American music performing today.