|Birth name||Samuel David Lawhorn|
July 12, 1935|
Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
|Died||April 29, 1990
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Sammy David Lawhorn (July 12, 1935 – April 29, 1990) was an American Chicago blues guitarist, best known as a member of Muddy Waters' band although he also accompanied many other blues musicians including Otis Spann, Willie Cobbs, Eddie Boyd, Roy Brown, Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, James Cotton and Junior Wells.
Lawhorn was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. His parents soon separated with his mother re-marrying, leaving the young Lawhorn cared for by his grandparents. Nailing some baling twine to the side of their home he made his own diddley bow. Frequently visiting his mother and stepfather in Chicago, they bought him a ukulele to play, followed in turn by an acoustic and finally electric guitar. By the age of fifteen, Lawhorn was proficient enough to accompany Driftin' Slim on stage, and with further guidance from Sonny Boy Williamson II, began playing with him on the King Biscuit Time radio program.
Lawhorn was conscripted in 1953 and served in the United States Navy where, on a tour of duty in Korea, he was injured by enemy fire during aerial reconnaissance. He continued in service and was discharged in 1958, when he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he undertook recording sessions with The "5" Royales, Eddie Boyd, Roy Brown and Willie Cobbs. An argument arose with the latter over the writing credits for the song "You Don't Love Me." Finding work on his own in Chicago in 1958, Lawhorn soon relocated, despite having a guitar stolen at one of his early club performances.
By the early 1960s, Lawhorn had found regular work as a club sideman to Junior Wells, Otis Rush and Elmore James, which led to him sitting in with Muddy Waters band on a couple of occasions. By October 1964, Lawhorn was invited to join the Muddy Waters band on a full-time basis. Over the next decade, he subsequently played on a number of Muddy Waters' albums including Live At Mister Kelly's, The London Muddy Waters Sessions, The Woodstock Album, and Folk Singer.
Lawhorn's guitar work also featured when Muddy Waters' band supplied backing to John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton and Otis Spann. Lawhorn's use of the tremolo arm on his guitar, and his overall playing expertise, saw him later credited by Muddy Waters as the best guitarist he ever had in his band. However, Lawhorn's career started to be hampered by his drinking. Passing out on stage over his amplifier, off stage whilst sitting in clubs, or missing shows altogether, led to Muddy Waters losing patience and firing Lawhorn in 1973. He was replaced by Bob Margolin.
Lawson simply returned to playing in Chicago clubs, and remained in the recording industry with appearances on Junior Wells' On Tap, plus James Cotton's Take Me Back (1987). He also supplied his guitar skills to recorded work by Koko Taylor, Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Mack Simmons, and L. C. Robinson. His work in several Chicago haunts saw him play alongside his childhood idols in T-Bone Walker and Lightnin' Hopkins. Assistance proffered by Lawhorn to up and coming musicians of the time saw John Primer become a disciple.
A combination of alcoholism and arthritis started to cause Lawhorn's health to fail. The latter was contributed to when he was thrown from a third floor window by a burglar, breaking both his feet and ankles.
The following list represents a range of album recordings that featured Lawhorn's guitar work:
- Folk Singer (1964) - Muddy Waters
- Blues is Where It's At (1966) - Otis Spann
- Live at the Café Au Go-Go (1966) - John Lee Hooker
- The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band (1966) - Various
- Big Mama Thornton with the Muddy Waters Blues Band (1966) - Big Mama Thornton and Muddy Waters
- Brass and the Blues (1967) - Muddy Waters
- The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Blues Band, Volume 2 (1968) - Various
- Ball 'n' Chain (1968) - Big Mama Thornton
- They Call Me Muddy Waters (1970) - Muddy Waters
- I Got What It Takes (1975) - Koko Taylor
- On Tap (1975) - Junior Wells
- Live at Theresa's 1975 (1975) - Junior Wells
- Spoon's Life (1980) - Jimmy Witherspoon
- My Soul is Blue (1980) - Johnny Dollar
- Take Me Back (1987) - James Cotton Blues Band