Early in the Morning (Sonny Boy Williamson I song)

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"Early in the Morning"
Single by Sonny Boy Williamson I
B-side "Project Highway"
Released 1937 (1937)
Format 10-inch 78 rpm record
Recorded Chicago, November 11, 1937
Genre Blues
Length 2:47
Label Bluebird (no. 7302)
Songwriter(s) Unknown
Sonny Boy Williamson I singles chronology
"Bluebird Blues" / "Jackson Blues"
"Early in the Morning"
"Black Gal Blues" / "Suzanna Blues"
"Bluebird Blues"/ "Jackson Blues"
"Early in the Morning"
"Black Gal Blues"/ "Suzanna Blues"

"Early in the Morning" (sometimes called "'Bout the Break of Day") is a blues song that was recorded by Sonny Boy Williamson I in 1937. Identified as a blues standard,[1] it was inspired by earlier blues songs. "Early in the Morning" has been recorded by numerous musicians,[2] including Junior Wells, who made it part of his repertoire.


Charlie Spand recorded "Soon This Morning" June 6, 1929 (Paramount 12760). The song features Spand's vocal and piano and opens:

It's early in the mornin' 'bout the break of day
My head on the pillow where my mama used to lay

Spand subsequently recorded several versions of "Soon This Morning". Several other bluesmen also recorded renditions of the song, often varying the lyrics. Some early versions include Big Bill Broonzy's "At the Break of Day" (1934 Bluebird 5571), Walter Roland's "Early This Morning" (1934 Banner 33343), Jimmie Gordon's "Soon in the Morning" (1935 Decca 7099), Bill Gaither's "Bout the Break of Day" (1936 Decca 7404 as "Leroy's Buddy"), Speckled Red's "Early in the Morning" (1938 Bluebird 8069), and Washboard Sam's "So Early in the Morning" (1939 Bluebird 8358).

Sonny Boy Williamson I song[edit]

John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson recorded "Early in the Morning" in 1937. The song is a medium-tempo twelve-bar blues that features Williamson's vocal and harmonica accompanied by Robert Lee McCoy (later known as Robert Nighthawk) and Henry Townsend on guitars.[2] He incorporated his signature "call-and-response style of alternating vocal passages with pungent harmonica blasts" that became a fundamental of blues harmonica.[3] Williamson's chorus uses lyrics similar to the earlier songs:

You tell me 'Come early in the mornin', baby 'bout the break of day'
Now ya oughta see me grab the pillow where my baby used to lay

Williamson's "Early in the Morning" (and the other early versions of the song) was released before blues songs were tracked by record industry trade magazines such as Billboard. When he re-recorded the song in 1945, it did not appear in the R&B chart.[4]

Junior Wells versions[edit]

Chicago blues harmonica player Junior Wells recorded several versions of "Early in the Morning" during his career. He first recorded it in 1954 for States Records (S-139), while he claimed he was AWOL from the U.S. Army.[5] Titled "'Bout the Break of Day", Wells added several verses which have been used in subsequent versions of the song by other artists. Backing Wells on vocal and harmonica are Muddy Waters and Louis Myers on guitars, Otis Spann on piano, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums. In 1965, he recorded two versions of the song with Buddy Guy—a live recording at Pepper's Lounge in Chicago from It's My Life, Baby! (Vanguard) and a studio recording for the influential Hoodoo Man Blues album.

Other versions[edit]

Many artists have recorded their interpretations of "Early in the Morning",[6] including Tampa Red (1951); Muddy Waters (1963) later released on One More Mile (1994); Charlie Musselwhite from Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite's Southside Band (1967); and B.B. King with Van Morrison from B.B. King & Friends: 80 (2005). Eric Clapton recorded three versions of "Early in the Morning": a studio version from Backless (1978) and live versions from Crossroads 2: Live in the Seventies (1978, released 1996) and Just One Night (1980).


  1. ^ Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "Early in the Morning". Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 446. ISBN 1-55728-252-8. 
  2. ^ a b Fancourt, Les (1995). Sugar Mama – The Essential Recordings of Sonny Boy Williamson (Album notes). Sonny Boy Williamson I. Indigo Records. p. 2–3. IGOCD 2014. 
  3. ^ Dahl, Bill (1996). Erlewine, Michael, ed. Sonny Boy Williamson [I]. All Music Guide to the Blues. Miller Freeman Books. p. 283. ISBN 0-87930-424-3. 
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research, Inc. p. 447. ISBN 0-89820-068-7. 
  5. ^ Koester, Bob (1998). Blues Hit Big Town (Album notes). Junior Wells. Delmark Records. p. 2. DD-640. 
  6. ^ "Song search results for Early in the Morning". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved January 10, 2016.