Snooky Pryor

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Snooky Pryor
Snooky Pryor.jpg
Pryor in Edinburgh, June 1993 Photograph: Phil Wight
Background information
Birth name James Edward Pryor
Born (1921-09-15)September 15, 1921
Lambert, Mississippi United States
Died October 18, 2006(2006-10-18) (aged 85)
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, United States
Genres Chicago blues,[1] Delta blues
Occupation(s) Musician, carpenter, soldier
Instruments Vocals
Blues harp
Years active 1945–2006
Labels Vee Jay Records, Virgin Records, ABC Records, Blind Pig Records, Telarc Records, Electro-Fi Records

Snooky Pryor (September 15, 1921 – October 18, 2006) was a Chicago blues harmonica player.[1][2] 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 '50s he did not utilize this method.


James Edward 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 the powerful 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 records in 1948,[1] including "Telephone Blues" and "Snooky & Moody's Boogie" with guitarist Moody Jones, and "Stockyard Blues" and "Keep What You Got" with singer/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 into the opening eight bars of his own blues harmonica instrumental, "Juke," an R&B hit in 1952.[3] In 1967, Pryor moved south to Ullin, Illinois. He quit music for carpentry in the late 1960s but was persuaded to make a comeback.[4] After he dropped out of sight, Pryor was later re-discovered and resumed periodic recording until his death in nearby Cape Girardeau, Missouri at the age of 85.

In January 1973 he appeared with the American Blues Legends tour which played throughout Europe alongside Homesick James. Whilst 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), and "Crazy 'Bout My Baby" from Snooky (1989), "How'd 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 residential city of Carbondale, Illinois.




  • 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[5]
  • 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 mit Carey Bell, Lazy Lester, Rafuel Neal (2001) Telarc Records
  • Snooky Pryor and his Mississippi Wrecking Crew (2002) Electro-Fi Records
  • Mojo Ramble (2003) Electro-Fi Records

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  2. ^ Tony Russell (10 November 2006). "Obituary of Snooky Pryor". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "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
  4. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 157. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  5. ^ 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.

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