Sonny Chillingworth

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Sonny Chillingworth

Edwin Bradfield Liloa Chillingworth, Jr., known as Sonny Chillingworth, (July 14, 1932 – August 24, 1994) was an American guitarist and singer. Widely influential in Hawaiian music, he played slack-key guitar and is widely regarded as one of the most influential slack key guitarists in history.[1]


Chillingworth was born in Oahu in Hawaii, then a U.S. territory. He started playing the guitar at age twelve when he was living with his grandfather, Harry Purdy, on Moloka'i. He learned the Hawaiian way by listening, watching and imitating.

One day his father brought him a Victrola and some records. One of them was Hi'ilawe by Gabby Pahinui. Chillingworth was inspired. When Chillingworth was fifteen, he visited Honolulu and his mother arranged a meeting with Pahinui. After high school, Chillingworth moved to Honolulu and joined Pahinui, Andy Cummings and others at clubs, lu'aus and all-night jam sessions.

In 1954, Chillingworth made his first record, Make'e 'Ailana, with the legendary Vickie Ii Rodrigues. In 1964, Chillingworth released his first album, Waimea Cowboy, which earned a gold record. In the 1970s, Chillingworth began to share his knowledge with younger performers, such as George Kuo, Ozzie Kotani, and Makana, and influenced others through his recordings. Chillingworth helped lead a revival of the slack key guitar style in the 1980s as one of slack key's elder statesman. He was committed to Hawaiian music but also played other styles such as rock-n-roll, R&B, blues, and folk.

Chillingworth died from cancer on August 24, 1994, in Honolulu.[2] He was 62.


  1. ^ [1] Dancing Cat Bio
  2. ^ [2] Hawaiian Music History Tribute