Billy Boy Arnold
|Billy Boy Arnold|
Photograph by Ronald Weinstock
|Birth name||William Arnold|
September 16, 1935 |
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Instruments||Harmonica, vocals, guitar|
Born in Chicago, he began playing harmonica as a child, and in 1948 received informal lessons from his near neighbour John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, shortly before the latter's death. Arnold made his recording debut in 1952 with "Hello Stranger" on the small Cool label, the record company giving him the nickname "Billy Boy".
In the early 1950s, he joined forces with street musician Bo Diddley and played harmonica on the March 2, 1955 recording of the Bo Diddley song "I'm a Man" released by Checker Records. The same day as the Bo Diddley sessions, Billy Boy recorded the self-penned "You Got to Love Me" which was not released until the box set, Chess Blues 1947-1967, in 1992.
Arnold signed a solo recording contract with Vee-Jay Records, recording the originals of "I Wish You Would" and "I Ain’t Got You". Both were later covered by The Yardbirds. "I Wish You Would" was also recorded by David Bowie on his 1973 album, Pin Ups and by Sweet on their 1982 album, Identity Crisis.
In the late 1950s Arnold continued to play in Chicago clubs, and in 1963 he recorded a LP, More Blues From The South Side, for the Prestige label, but as playing opportunities dried up he pursued a parallel career as a bus driver and, later, parole officer.
In 1993 he released the album Back Where I Belong on Alligator Records, followed by Eldorado Cadillac (1995) and Boogie ’n’ Shuffle (2001). In 2012, he released Blue and Lonesome featuring Tony McPhee and The Groundhogs.
- San Francisco Blues Festival - 1992
- Long Beach Blues Festival - 1994
- North Sea Jazz - 2009
- Chicago Blues Festival - 1994, 2004, 2010
- The University of Chicago Folk Festival - 2012
- Allmusic biography
- Chess Blues 1947-1967 (CD liner). various artists. United States: Chess/MCA Records. 1992. CHD4-9340. http://aln2.albumlinernotes.com/Chess_Blues_-_Disc_3.html.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 89. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- "Blue and Lonesome". www.allmusic.com. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- "52nd Annual University of Chicago Folk Festival - Performers". Uofcfolk.org. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
- Billy Boy Arnold on Alligator Records site
- Interview with Richie Unterberger
- Arnold biography at Allmusic