Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds

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Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds
Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds.jpeg
Live album by Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds
Released January 7, 1966 (1966-01-07)
Recorded London, December 1963
Genre Blues
Length 34:03
Label Fontana
Producer Horst Lippmann, Giorgio Gomelsky
Sonny Boy Williamson II chronology
The Real Folk Blues
Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds
More Real Folk Blues

Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds is a live album by Chicago blues veteran Sonny Boy Williamson II backed by English rock band the Yardbirds. It was recorded at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, Surrey on December 8, 1963, although a second date and location has been given for two songs.[1][2]

Williamson sings and/or plays harmonica on all of the songs. Although they are in a supporting role, the album also presents some of the earliest recordings by the Yardbirds, whose members included Eric Clapton on lead guitar. Numerous reissues have appeared over the years, sometimes with additional tracks recorded around the same time.


German music impresarios Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau organized the first annual American Folk Blues Festival in 1962. They arranged for several well-known American blues artists to perform in concert in several European cities.[a] Sonny Boy Williamson participated during the second festival tour in 1963 and his performances are identified as some of the most memorable of the festival.[3][4] At the conclusion of the festival, he returned to England for a more extensive club tour.[4]

The Yardbirds' manager, Giorgio Gomelsky, who promoted some of the early American Folk Blues Festivals in England, persuaded Lippmann to attend one of the group's shows[5] (by another account, Williamson also saw one of their performances).[3] A deal was struck and the Yardbirds backed Williamson for several English dates between December 1963 and February 1964. Part of the arrangement included that Lippmann and Rau record some live performances (as they had done for the festival tour) and finance a solo studio demo by the group.[5][b]


December 7, 1963 at the Star Hotel, Croydon

Sonny Boy Williamson backed by the Yardbirds:[7]
  • "Take It Easy Baby" (version 1)
  • "Do the Weston" (version 1)

December 8, 1963 at the Crawdaddy Club, Richmond

The Yardbirds (without Williamson):[7]
Williamson (solo):[7]
  • "Baby Don't Worry"
  • "I Don't Care No More"
Williamson backed by the Yardbirds:[7]
  • "Bye Bye Bird"
  • "Mister Downchild"
  • "The River Rhine"
  • "23 Hours Too Long"
  • "A Lost Care"
  • "Pontiac Blues"
  • "Take It Easy Baby" (version 2)
  • "Out on the Water Coast"
  • "Western Arizona" a.k.a. "Do the Weston" (version 2)

February 28, 1964 at the Birmingham Town Hall

Williamson backed by the Yardbirds:[8]
  • "Slow Walk"
  • "Highway 49"
  • "My Little Cabin"
Williamson (solo):[8]
  • "Bye Bye Bird"


Over two years after it was recorded, Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds was first released in the UK by Fontana Records on January 7, 1966.[9] With a somewhat different running order, it was released in the US a month later by Mercury Records on February 7, 1966.[9] The album coincided with a string of successful singles by the Yardbirds, which lead music critic Richie Unterberger to label it "an exploitative album".[10] Although Williamson's photo and name were prominently displayed on the album cover, a more recent photo of the Yardbirds with Jeff Beck (who replaced Clapton in March 1965) in the foreground was used.[11] In Germany, the album was released by Star-Club Records, which had a connection to Lippmann and Rau.[c]

Although the recording date for Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds is usually given as December 8, 1963,[13] there are conflicting accounts for two of the recordings. Yardbirds' biographer Gregg Russo indicates that the December 7, 1963, test recordings of "Take It Easy Baby" and "Do the Weston" were used for the album.[1] He places both the December 7 and 8 dates at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond.[7] The running times for the songs support Russo.[d] However, Gomelsky notes that the December 7 test recording took place at the Star Hotel in Croydon.[14] Biographer Alan Clayson places the December 7 performance at "Crawdaddy Star Hotel, Croydon".[15] Gomelsky, who ran the Richmond Crawdaddy Club, also operated the room at the Star Hotel, "presumably with the intention of building a Crawdaddy 'circuit'".[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[10]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Unterberger gave the album three out of five stars. He notes that Sonny Boy Williamson sings well and that the album should be seen as a Williamson release "in the manner of the sides the Beatles cut in Hamburg supporting Tony Sheridan."[10] He describes the Yardbirds' and Clapton's playing as "extremely green" and "tentative".[10] The album did not appear on the record charts in the UK or US.

Track listing[edit]

Original Fontana album

The songwriter credits are taken from the 1966 Fontana release, which lists all songs are written by Sonny Boy Williamson II, except as noted. The album does not include running times.

Side 1
  1. "Bye Bye Bird" (Willie Dixon, Williamson)
  2. "Mister Downchild"
  3. "23 Hours Too Long"
  4. "Out on the Water Coast"
  5. "Baby Don't Worry"
Side 2
  1. "Pontiac Blues"
  2. "Take It Easy Baby"
  3. "I Don't Care No More"
  4. "Do the Weston"

Original Mercury album

The running times are taken from the 1966 Mercury release.[3] The liner notes include "All selection composed by Sonny Boy Williamson II and published by BMI".[3]

Side 1
  1. "Bye Bye Bird" – 2:23
  2. "Pontiac Blues" – 3:45
  3. "Take It Easy Baby" – 4:09
  4. "I Don't Care No More" – 3:18
  5. "Do the Weston" – 4:00
Side 2
  1. "Mister Downchild" – 3:56
  2. "23 Hours Too Long" – 5:04
  3. "Out on the Water Coast" – 3:00
  4. "Baby Don't Worry" – 4:28


Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds has been reissued numerous times.[17] Sometimes the tracks were resequenced and the cover art was updated with photos of the later period Yardbirds.[18] Questions over the ownership of the master tapes and the rights to authorize their release has led to many competing and overlapping albums.[19] Beginning in 1981, Lippmann and Rau began releasing other material recorded around the same time.[20] These albums sometimes included various combinations of additional recordings with Williamson, the Yardbirds' December 8, 1963, solo set, and early group demos.[21] In 1984, Gomelsky released the first of several box sets by the group, Shapes of Things, which also combined these tracks.[e] New albums continue to appear, sometimes packaged with recordings of Williamson backed by the Animals on December 30, 1963,[6] and with Jimmy Page and Brian Auger in January 1965.[23]


The Yardbirds


  1. ^ "Folk Blues" is something of a misnomer – many of the artists were associated with urban or electric blues, rather than folk or country blues
  2. ^ Before they signed to a record contract, the Animals also backed Williamson; a live album recorded on December 30, 1963, was later released[6]
  3. ^ It is unclear what, if any, connection existed between the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, and Star-Club Records. The Mercury release included "Imported from Star-Club Germany" on both the front and back album covers.[12]
  4. ^ The original Mercury album lists 4:09 for "Take It Easy Baby", while The Yardbirds Story lists 4:12 for the December 7, 1963, version (versus 5:41 for the December 8 version). Similarly, Mercury uses 4:00 for "Do the Weston", while Story uses 4:11 for the first version (versus 3:02 (renamed "Western Arizona") for the second).[3][14]
  5. ^ The 1993 four-CD box set "Train Kept a Rollin' – The Complete Giorgio Gomelsky Productions" (Charly LIKBOX3) and the Yardbirds Story 2002 reissue omitted "I Don't Care No More" and "Baby Don't Worry" from the original album; these are essentially solo pieces by Williamson and feature little or no Yardbirds backing.[22]


  1. ^ a b Russo 1998, pp. 84, 96.
  2. ^ Gomelsky & Cohen 2002, p. 8.
  3. ^ a b c d e Mercury 1966, back cover.
  4. ^ a b Schumacher 1995, p. 32.
  5. ^ a b Gomelsky & Cohen 2002, p. 4.
  6. ^ a b MacNeil, Jason. "Sonny Boy Williamson: U.K. Blues". AllMusic. Retrieved December 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Russo 1998, p. 84.
  8. ^ a b Russo 1998, p. 85.
  9. ^ a b Koda & Russo 2001, p. 50.
  10. ^ a b c d Unterberger, Richie. "Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds (Repertoire) – Album Review". AllMusic. Retrieved December 10, 2016. 
  11. ^ Mercury 1966, front cover.
  12. ^ Mercury 1966, front and back covers.
  13. ^ Schumacher 1995, p. 35.
  14. ^ a b Gomelsky & Cohen 2002, pp. 3, 4, 8.
  15. ^ Clayson 2002, p. 165.
  16. ^ Bacon 1999, p. 60.
  17. ^ Russo 1998, p. 97.
  18. ^ Russo 1998, pp. 97–99.
  19. ^ Russo 1998, pp. 117–118.
  20. ^ Russo 1998, pp. 99.
  21. ^ Russo, pp. 99–100.
  22. ^ Gomelsky & Cohen 2002, pp. 4–8.
  23. ^ Leggett, Steve. "Sonny Boy Williamson: Bye Bye Sonny – Album Review". AllMusic. Retrieved December 16, 2016.