|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's band. 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, and his mother remarried, leaving him in the care of his grandparents. He made his own diddley bow, nailing baling twine to the side of their house. He frequently visited his mother and stepfather in Chicago. They bought him a ukulele, then an acoustic guitar and finally an electric guitar. By the age of fifteen, he was proficient enough to accompany Driftin' Slim on stage. With further guidance from Sonny Boy Williamson II, Lawhorn began playing with him on the radio program King Biscuit Time.
He was conscripted in 1953 and served in the United States Navy. On a tour of duty in Korea, he was injured by enemy fire during aerial reconnaissance. He remained in the Navy until his discharge in 1958. He then moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he played on recordings with the "5" Royales, Eddie Boyd, Roy Brown and Willie Cobbs. An argument with Cobbs arose over the writing credits for the song "You Don't Love Me". Finding work on his own in Chicago in 1958, Lawhorn soon moved there, despite the theft of a guitar 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 and sat in with Muddy Waters's band on a couple of occasions. By October 1964, he had been invited to become a full-time member of Waters's band. Over the next decade, he played on several of Waters's albums, including Live at Mister Kelly's, The London Muddy Waters Sessions, The Woodstock Album, and Folk Singer. His guitar playing was also featured when the band supplied backing for John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton and Otis Spann. Citing Lawhorn's use of the tremolo arm on his guitar and his overall playing expertise, Waters later referred to him as the best guitarist he ever had in his band.
However, Lawhorn's career was beginning to be hampered by his drinking. He passed out on stage over his amplifier and off stage while sitting in clubs, and he missed some shows altogether. Waters lost patience and fired him in 1973. He was replaced by Bob Margolin.
Lawson returned to playing in Chicago clubs and remained in the recording industry, contributing to Junior Wells's On Tap (1974) and James Cotton's Take Me Back (1987). He also played guitar on recorded work by Koko Taylor, Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Mack Simmons, and L. C. Robinson. Working in several Chicago haunts, he played alongside his childhood idols T-Bone Walker and Lightnin' Hopkins. He offered assistance to up-and-coming musicians, including John Primer, who became his disciple.
Lawhorn's health began to fail as a result of alcoholism and arthritis. A factor contributing to his arthritis was his having broken bones in his feet and ankles when he was thrown from a third-floor window by a burglar.
The following list represents a range of album recordings that featured Lawhorn's guitar playing:
- Folk Singer, Muddy Waters, 1964
- Blues Is Where It's At, Otis Spann, 1966
- Live at the Café Au Go-Go, John Lee Hooker, 1966
- The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band, various artists, 1966
- Big Mama Thornton with the Muddy Waters Blues Band, Big Mama Thornton and Muddy Waters, 1966
- Brass and the Blues, Muddy Waters, 1967
- The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Blues Band, Volume 2, various artists, 1968
- Ball 'n' Chain, Big Mama Thornton, 1968
- They Call Me Muddy Waters, Muddy Waters, 1970
- I Got What It Takes, Koko Taylor, 1975
- On Tap, Junior Wells, 1974
- Live at Theresa's 1975, Junior Wells, 1975
- Spoon's Life (1980), Jimmy Witherspoon, 1980
- My Soul Is Blue, Johnny Dollar, 1980
- Take Me Back, James Cotton Blues Band, 1987
- Chadbourne, Eugene. "Sammy Lawhorn". Allmusic. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
- Johnson, Greg. "Sammy Lawhorn". Cascadeblues.org. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
- Spörke, Michael. Big Mama Thornton: The Life and Music. Mcfarland Books. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
- "Sammy Lawhorn: Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2014-01-28.
- "Sammy Lawhorn Discography". Wirz.de. Retrieved 2014-01-28.