Billy Boy Arnold Biography

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16 September 1935, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Arnold first played blues harmonica with Bo Diddley’s group in 1950 and became a well-known figure in Chicago blues throughout the following two decades. Among those he accompanied were Johnny Shines and Otis Rush. With a serviceable singing voice and a harmonica style influenced by John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson, Arnold recorded as a solo artist for local labels Cool (‘Hello Stranger’, 1952) and Vee Jay Records. In 1958 he led a group that included Mighty Joe Young and recorded for Mighty H. However, none of Arnold’s records were as successful as the mid-50s hits of Bo Diddley such as ‘Pretty Thing’ and ‘Hey Bo Diddley’, to which he contributed the keening harp phrases. The most renowned of Arnold’s own tracks is ‘I Wish You Would’ (Vee Jay), which was adopted by UK R&B group the Yardbirds in the 60s. During the mid-60s blues boom, he cut an album for Prestige/Bluesville, recorded with pianist Johnny Jones (a 1963 session that remained unreleased for 17 years), and there was also a later album for Vogue. Not forgotten by European blues enthusiasts, Arnold toured there in 1975 as part of the Blues Legends package, recording albums for Peter Shertser’s UK-based Red Lightnin’. He made a more prominent comeback in the early 90s, recording some excellent tracks for Alligator Records. He has continued recording regularly in the new millennium.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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