Billy Boy Arnold
The great pleasure of writing this column, Dear Readers, is the honor of speaking with many of its featured blues artists. Some I’ve known previously and some I take the opportunity to reach out to for the first time.
The great BILLY BOY ARNOLD, once a stranger, is no longer. When I asked this Man Of Considerable Taste what it feels like when performing at the highest level he replied “It’s natural to feel a bit nervous before going on but when you’ve got guys like Billy Flynn behind you, you give your best performance. It’s about the ‘best performance’ you can provide.”
Billy Boy Arnold survived and thrived by playing harp on the early electric Chicago blues scene when “all up and down the little small clubs on Madison Street, South side, West side, you could hear that harmonica blasting on the amplifiers.*” As one of the few original Chicago-born blues men still in action, Billy Boy brings continues to bring it on. Listen to Johnny Iguana’s Chicago Spectacular! on Delmark where his mentor Sonny Boy Williamson still breathes through Arnold’s Mississippi saxophone.
Billy Boy is known primarily for “I Wish You Would” but there is so, so much more. Check out one of Mr. Arnold’s favorite cds of his own work The Blues Soul Of Billy Boy Arnold w/guitarist and producer Duke Robillard. Go deep by listening to “Wandering Eye” and “Man Of Considerable Taste” from his Alligator Records’ catalog. Go even deeper by listening to my new favorite cd, Checkin’ It Out, recorded with blistering British blues band Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs.
Billy Boy Arnold is one of the post-war blues’ greatest practitioners. His legacy is broad and brilliant. So check out all of his cds a collection of deeply-rooted Chicago Blues records. I can’t wait to see and hear him play live again.
-© Peter M. Hurley
Mr. Hurley is a contributing photographer and writer for Living Blues Magazine and the staff photographer for Chicago Blues Network. His recent book Blues Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Chicago, in collaboration with Blues historian and author David Whiteis, showcases his work in the field. His passion for blues music began with the Chess Studios’ sound of Bo Diddley and continues to this day.
Visit Peter’s Website here.