Sonny Sharrock

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Sonny Sharrock
Sonny Sharrock.jpg
Background information
Birth nameWarren Harding Sharrock
Born(1940-08-27)August 27, 1940
Ossining, New York, U.S.
DiedMay 25, 1994(1994-05-25) (aged 53)
Ossining, New York, U.S.
GenresFree jazz, punk jazz, experimental
Years active1966–1994
Associated actsPharoah Sanders, Miles Davis, Herbie Mann, Peter Brötzmann, Linda Sharrock, Last Exit, Machine Gun, Bill Laswell

Warren Harding "Sonny" Sharrock (August 27, 1940 – May 25, 1994) was an American jazz guitarist. He was married to singer Linda Sharrock, with whom he recorded and performed.

One of few guitarists in the first wave of free jazz in the 1960s, Sharrock was known for his heavily chorded attack, his highly amplified bursts of feedback, and his use of saxophone-like lines played loudly on guitar.


Early life and career[edit]

Sharrock began his musical career singing doo wop in his teen years. He collaborated with Pharoah Sanders and Alexander Solla in the late 1960s, appearing first on Sanders's 1966 album, Tauhid. He made several appearances with flautist Herbie Mann and an uncredited appearance on Miles Davis's A Tribute to Jack Johnson.

He wanted to play tenor saxophone from his youth after hearing John Coltrane on Davis's Kind of Blue on the radio at age 19, but his asthma prevented this. Sharrock said repeatedly, however, that he still considered himself "a horn player with a really fucked up axe." [1]

Three albums under Sharrock's name were released in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s: Black Woman (which has been described by one reviewer as bringing out the beauty in emotions rather than technical prowess[2]), Monkey-Pockie-Boo, and an album co-credited to both Sharrock and his wife, Paradise (an album by which Sharrock was embarrassed and stated several times that it was not good and should not be reissued [3][4]).

Career revival[edit]

After the release of Paradise, Sharrock was semi-retired for much of the 1970s, undergoing a divorce from his wife and occasional collaborator Linda in 1978. In the intermittent years until bassist Bill Laswell coaxed him out of retirement, he worked as both a chauffeur and a caretaker for mentally challenged children. At Laswell's urging, Sharrock appeared on Material's (one of Laswell's many projects) 1981 album, Memory Serves. In addition, Sharrock was a member of the punk/jazz band Last Exit, with Peter Brötzmann, Laswell and Ronald Shannon Jackson. During the late 1980s, he recorded and performed extensively with the New York-based improvising band Machine Gun, as well as leading his own bands. Sharrock flourished with Laswell's help, noting in a 1991 interview that "the last five years have been pretty strange for me, because I went twelve years without making a record at all, and then in the last five years, I've made seven records under my own name. That's pretty strange." [5]

Laswell would often perform with the guitarist on his albums, and produced many of Sharrock's recordings, including the entirely solo Guitar, the metal-influenced Seize the Rainbow, followed by one of his more universally accessible albums, High Life. Sonny was quoted as saying that this was his favorite band ever, with Abe Speller on drums, Lance Carter on Drums, Charles Baldwin on Bass and David Snider on keyboards. Followed by the well-received Ask the Ages, which featured John Coltrane's bandmates Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones. "Who Does She Hope To Be?" is a lyrical piece harkening back to the Coltrane/Davis Kind of Blue sessions that had inspired him to play. One writer described Ask the Ages as "hands down, Sharrock's finest hour, and the ideal album to play for those who claim to hate jazz guitar."[6] Sharrock is perhaps best known for the soundtrack to the Cartoon Network program Space Ghost Coast to Coast with his drummer Lance Carter, one of the last projects he completed in the studio before his death. The season 3 episode "Sharrock" carried a dedication to him at the end, and previously unheard music that he had recorded for the show featured throughout most of the episode. "Sharrock" premiered as the 23rd episode on March 1, 1996 on Cartoon Network.


On May 26, 1994, Sharrock died of a heart attack in his hometown of Ossining, New York, on the verge of signing the first major label deal of his career. He was 53.


French guitarist Noël Akchoté's 2004 album Sonny II features tracks written, performed and inspired by Sharrock. In August 2010, S. Malcolm Street in Ossining was officially renamed "Sonny Sharrock Way".[7][8] A sign was erected on Saturday, October 2, 2010.[9] Sharrock was also inducted into Ossining High School's Hall of Fame.


As leader[edit]

With Last Exit

As sideman[edit]

With Pheeroan akLaff

  • Sonogram (Mu Works, 1989)

With Roy Ayers

With Ginger Baker

  • No Material (ITM, 1989)

With Brute Force

  • Brute Force (Embryo, 1970)

With Don Cherry

With Miles Davis

With Green Line

With Byard Lancaster

With Machine Gun

  • Machine Gun (Mu, 1988)
  • Open Fire (Mu, 1989)

With Herbie Mann

With Material

With Pharoah Sanders

With Wayne Shorter

With The Stalin

With Marzette Watts


  1. ^ Stagener, Dave. (1998). Sound Practices Mailing List Files - Volume 1. Subject: Re: Jazz Tips. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2004-10-10. Retrieved 2004-09-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ (2000). The Music Forum – Reviews: Sonny Sharrock – Black Woman Retrieved January 5, 2008, from
  3. ^ Ratliff, Ben & Sharrock, Sonny. (1990). Interview with Sonny Sharrock, WKCR-FM, New York City, 1989. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-05-05. Retrieved 2007-01-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Flynn, Ed & Sharrock, Sonny. (1993). Sounds & Voices of the Avant-Garde: Excerpts from an Interview with Sonny Sharrock, Hosted, Edited and Produced by Ed Flynn, WPKN-FM, 89.5, Bridgeport, Air Date 6/9/93. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-07-17. Retrieved 2006-08-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Schaefer, John; Skopelitis, Nicky & Sharrock, Sonny. (1991). Excerpts from an interview with Sonny Sharrock and Nicky Skopelitis, "New Sounds" No. 711, WNYC-FM, 9/9/91. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from
  6. ^ Sumera, Matthew. (2007). :: Sonny Sharrock. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from
  7. ^ "The Music of Sonny Sharrock: Welcome". Archived from the original on 2014-06-28. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
  8. ^ Sonny Sharrock Way (1970-01-01). "Sonny Sharrock Way, Ossining, NY - Google Maps". Retrieved 2014-07-18.
  9. ^ "Sonny Sharrock Street Dedication Ceremony on Vimeo". 2010-10-03. Retrieved 2014-07-18.

External links[edit]