Sonny Rhodes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sonny Rhodes
Rhodes performing in 2000
Rhodes performing in 2000
Background information
Birth nameClarence Edward Mauldin
Also known asClarence Smith
Born(1940-11-03)November 3, 1940
Smithville, Texas, U.S.
DiedDecember 14, 2021(2021-12-14) (aged 81)
Occupation(s)Singer, guitarist, songwriter
Instrument(s)Lap steel guitar, electric guitar
Years active1958–2021
LabelsEvidence, Galaxy, Ichiban, Kingsnake, Rhodes-Way, Stony Plain, Greater Planet Entertainment, Need To Know Music

Clarence Smith (born Clarence Edward Mauldin; November 3, 1940 – December 14, 2021), known as Sonny Rhodes, was an American blues singer and lap steel guitar player.[1] He recorded over two hundred songs. "I'm what you call a self-proclaimed Disciple of the Blues!" said Rhodes about his years playing and singing for fans of blues around the world.[2] He was nominated 15 times for Blues Music Awards and won in the category 'Instrumentalist – Other' in 2011.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Rhodes was born in Smithville, Texas on November 3, 1940,[4] as the son of Emma Mauldin. He was orphaned as a baby and was adopted by sharecroppers Leroy and Julia Smith.[4] He received his first guitar at the age of eight as a Christmas present and became serious about playing the blues at age 12. He credited his uncle as his source of inspiration. Rhodes began performing around Smithville and nearby Austin in the late 1950s, while still in his teens. He listened a lot to T-Bone Walker when he was young. He acknowledged as influences the guitarists L. C. Robinson, Pee Wee Crayton and B. B. King and the singer Percy Mayfield.[5][non-primary source needed] With his first band, Clarence Smith and the Daylighters, he played blues clubs in the Austin area until he joined the Navy after high school graduation.[1]

In the Navy, he was stationed in California, where he worked for a while as a radio man and closed-circuit Navy ship disc jockey, telling off-color jokes in between the country and blues records he would spin for the entertainment of the sailors. Rhodes recorded a single, "I'll Never Let You Go When Something Is Wrong", for Domino Records in Austin in 1958. He also learned to play the bass guitar. He played bass accompanying the guitarists Freddie King and Albert Collins. After his stint in the Navy, in his mid-20s, Rhodes returned to California and lived in Fresno for a few years before signing a recording contract with Galaxy Records in Oakland. He recorded a single, "I Don't Love You No More", in 1966 and another single for Galaxy in 1967, changing his stage name from Clarence Smith to Sonny Rhodes at that time.[4] Frustrated with the San Francisco Bay area record companies, he recorded "Cigarette Blues" on his own label, Rhodes-Way Records, in 1978.[1]

Rhodes toured Europe in 1976 and released numerous recordings on European labels, including I Don't Want My Blues Colored Bright and the live album In Europe. In 1985, he released Just Blues on Rhodes-Way. In the late 1980s, he recorded Disciple of the Blues, released by Ichiban Records in 1991, and Living Too Close to the Edge, released in 1992.[6] He later moved to Kingsnake Records, releasing several albums including The Blues Is My Best Friend (1994) and Out of Control (1995),[1] and touring widely in the US, Canada and Europe. In 2008, he released I'm Back Again.[7] His current release, The Essential Sonny Rhodes – Songs & Stories,[8] on Need To Know Music is a retrospective of his career to date, featuring Rich Kirch, Barry Goldberg, Frank Howard Swart and Dawn Richardson. The record was produced by Brian Brinkerhoff and Swart.[9]

He died on December 14, 2021, at the age of 81.[10]

Other work[edit]


Rhodes recorded "The Ballad of Serenity", the theme music for the television series Firefly, which was written by Joss Whedon, the creator of the series.[11]


Rhodes played at the San Francisco Blues Festival six times. In 1993, Sonny was the best man in the onstage wedding of Mike and Laura Harrelson at the Sacramento Blues Festival. He also played at the Musicamdo Jazz and Blues Festival in Italy in 2005 and the Fresno Blues Festival in 2007.

Selected discography[edit]

1977 I Don't Want My Blues Colored Bright Texas blues Blossom Studios
1991 Disciple Of The Blues Texas blues Ichiban Records
1992 Won't Rain in California Contemporary blues EPM Musique
1992 Livin' Too Close To The Edge Texas blues Ichiban Records
1995 Just Blues Contemporary blues Evidence
1994 The Blues Is My Best Friend Texas blues Kingsnake
1996 Out of Control Delta blues Kingsnake
1997 Born to Be Blue Delta blues Kingsnake
1999 Blue Diamond Blues Stony Plain Music
2001 A Good Day to Play the Blues Traditional blues Stony Plain Music
2003 Texas Fender Bender (Live) Texas blues Great Planet Entertainment
2008 I'm Back Again Delta blues EPM Musique
2016 Then & Now Texas blues Blues Express Records
2017 The Essential Sonny Rhodes – Songs & Stories Traditional blues Need To Know Music



  1. ^ a b c d Skelly, Richard. "Sonny Rhodes". AllMusic. Retrieved May 27, 2009.
  2. ^ "Entertainment Columns & Blogs | & Fresno Bee". Fresno Famous. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  3. ^ "Awards Search > Sonny Rhodes". Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues – A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 296. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  5. ^ Rhodes, Sonny (2009). "Sonny Rhodes MySpace". MySpace website. Retrieved June 20, 2009.
  6. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Blues (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 303. ISBN 0-85112-673-1.
  7. ^ a b "Sonny Rhodes | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  8. ^ "The Essential Sonny Rhodes – Songs and Stories – CD". Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  9. ^ "The Essential Sonny Rhodes: Songs & Stories - Sonny Rhodes | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  10. ^ "Sonny Rhodes (1940-2021)". SoulBag website. Retrieved December 22, 2021.
  11. ^ Sonny Rhodes at IMDb

External links[edit]