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Pryor in Edinburgh, June 1993 (photograph: Phil Wight)
|Birth name||James Edward Pryor|
September 15, 1919 or 1921|
Lambert, Mississippi United States
|Died||October 18, 2006
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, United States
|Genres||Chicago blues, Delta blues|
|Instruments||Vocals, blues harp, bugle|
|Labels||Vee-Jay, Virgin, ABC, Blind Pig, Telarc, Electro-Fi|
James Edward "Snooky" Pryor (September 15, 1919 or 1921 – October 18, 2006) was an American Chicago blues harmonica player. He claimed to have pioneered the now-common method of playing amplified harmonica by cupping a small microphone in his hands along with the harmonica, although on his earliest records in the late 1940s and early 1950s he did not utilize this method.
Pryor was born in Lambert, Mississippi, and developed a Delta blues style influenced by both Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee Williamson) and Sonny Boy Williamson II (Aleck Ford "Rice" Miller). He moved to Chicago around 1940.
While serving in the U.S. Army he would blow bugle calls through a PA system, which led him to experiment with playing the harmonica that way. Upon discharge from the Army in 1945, he obtained his own amplifier and began playing harmonica at the outdoor Maxwell Street Market, becoming a regular on the Chicago blues scene.
Pryor recorded some of the first postwar Chicago blues, in 1948, including "Telephone Blues" and "Snooky & Moody's Boogie", with the guitarist Moody Jones, and "Stockyard Blues" and "Keep What You Got", with the singer and guitarist Floyd Jones. "Snooky & Moody's Boogie" is of considerable historical significance: Pryor claimed that harmonica ace Little Walter directly copied the signature riff of Pryor's song in the opening eight bars of his blues harmonica instrumental "Juke," an R&B hit in 1952. In 1967, Pryor moved to Ullin, Illinois. He quit music and worked as a carpenter in the late 1960s but was persuaded to make a comeback. He was later rediscovered by blues fans and resumed recording occasionally until his death in nearby Cape Girardeau, Missouri, at the age of 85.
In January 1973 he appeared alongside Homesick James with the American Blues Legends tour, which played throughout Europe. On this tour they recorded an album in London, Homesick James & Snooky Pryor, on Jim Simpson's label, Big Bear Records.
Some of his better known songs include "Judgement Day" (1956); "Crazy 'Bout My Baby", from Snooky (1989); "where did You Learn to Shake It Like That", from Tenth Anniversary Anthology (1989); and "Shake My Hand" (1999).
Pryor's son Richard "Rip Lee" Pryor is also a blues musician and performs in and around his hometown of Carbondale, Illinois.
- "Boogie" (A-side) / "Telephone Blues" (B-side) (1948), Planet
- "Someone to Love Me" (A) / "Judgement Day" (B) (1956), Vee Jay Records
- Snooky Pryor (1970), Flyright Records, FLY 100, made in England
- Homesick James & Snooky Pryor (1973), Virgin Records, London
- Do It If You Want To (1973), ABC Records, Los Angeles, New York
- Snooky (1989), Blind Pig Records
- Snooky Pryor (1991), Paula Records
- Johnny Shines and Snooky Pryor: Back to the Country (1991), Blind Pig Records
- Snooky Pryor: Too Cool to Move (1992), Antone's Records
- In This Mess Up to My Chest (1994), Antone's Records
- Mind Your Own Business (1996), Antone's Records
- Snooky Pryor: Shake My Hand (1999), Blind Pig Records
- Double Shot!, Snooky Pryor and Mel Brown (2000), Electro-Fi Records
- Super Harps II, with Carey Bell, Lazy Lester, Raful Neal (2001), Telarc Records
- Snooky Pryor and His Mississippi Wrecking Crew (2002), Electro-Fi Records
- Mojo Ramble (2003), Electro-Fi Records
- Chicago blues
- Chicago Blues Festival
- List of Chicago blues musicians
- List of harmonica blues musicians
- List of harmonicists
- San Francisco Blues Festival
- Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 193. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- Tony Russell (10 November 2006). "Obituary of Snooky Pryor". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
- "I Started the Big Noise Around Chicago," an interview with Snooky Pryor conducted by Jim O'Neal, Steve Wisner, and David Nelson, Living Blues #123 (Sept./Oct. 1995, pp. 10–11.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 157. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Record label founded in 1987 by Clifford Antone, owner of Antone's Nightclub, in Austin, Texas, to release live recordings of club performances; Profile of Antone's Records, Discogs. Retrieved 2015-07-27.
- Interview on Canoe from July 2000, accessed December 1, 2006