Billy Boy Arnold

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Billy Boy Arnold
Billy Boy Arnold (blues musician).jpg
Photograph by Ronald Weinstock
Background information
Birth name William Arnold
Born (1935-09-16) September 16, 1935 (age 79)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Blues
Instruments Harmonica, vocals, guitar
Years active 1952–present

William "Billy Boy" Arnold (born September 16, 1935, Chicago, Illinois)[1] is an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter.


Billy Boy Arnold performing at the International Jazz Festival in Wellington, New Zealand in 2006.

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".[1]

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.[1] 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.[2]

Arnold signed a solo recording contract with Vee-Jay Records, recording the originals of "I Wish You Would" and "I Ain’t Got You".[3] Both were later covered by The Yardbirds.[3] "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.[1]

By the 1970s, Arnold had begun playing festivals, touring Europe, and recording again. He recorded a session for BBC Radio 1 disc jockey John Peel on 5 October 1977.

In 1993, he released the album Back Where I Belong on Alligator Records, followed by Eldorado Cadillac (1995) and on Stony Plain Records with the Duke Robillard Band Boogie ’n’ Shuffle (2001). In 2012, he released Blue and Lonesome featuring Tony McPhee and The Groundhogs.[4] Another tribute to Sonny Boy was the album The Blues Soul of Billy Boy Arnold (Stony Plain - SPCD 1378, 2014).[5]

In 2014, he was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the 'Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year' category.[6]

Festival appearances[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Allmusic biography
  2. ^ Chess Blues 1947-1967 (CD liner). various artists. United States: Chess/MCA Records. 1992. CHD4-9340. 
  3. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 89. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  4. ^ "Blue and Lonesome". Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Robert H. Cataliotti (December 2014). "CD REVIEWS DECEMBER 2014". Living Blues. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "2014 Blues Music Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  7. ^ "52nd Annual University of Chicago Folk Festival - Performers". Retrieved 2012-12-08. 

External links[edit]