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Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?

GUEST,Busker On A Budget - curious about this. 16 May 18 - 05:17 PM
keberoxu 16 May 18 - 05:24 PM
Stower 16 May 18 - 06:12 PM
meself 16 May 18 - 11:43 PM
Will Fly 17 May 18 - 03:02 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 17 May 18 - 04:25 AM
Mr Red 17 May 18 - 04:36 AM
Roger the Skiffler 17 May 18 - 05:32 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 17 May 18 - 11:43 AM
GUEST,turnip 17 May 18 - 11:45 AM
Mark Ross 17 May 18 - 12:00 PM
Mr Red 18 May 18 - 04:08 AM
GUEST,John James 18 May 18 - 05:02 AM
Big Al Whittle 18 May 18 - 05:33 AM
Roger the Skiffler 18 May 18 - 08:59 AM
Mr Red 20 May 18 - 03:52 AM
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Subject: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: GUEST,Busker On A Budget - curious about this.
Date: 16 May 18 - 05:17 PM

I'm a big fan of Brownie and Sonny - they were a huge influence on the style and repertoire of my former professional duo act. I'm a harp player as well as a guitarist, so whichever instrument I'm on at any given time often betrays my debt to their recordings.

I read somewhere that by the end of their career together, nearer to when Mr. Terry passed away, the two of them would smile and pal around on stage, but were barely on speaking terms, if at all, in their private lives.

I'm curious as to whether anyone here ever saw them perform, or met either or both of them personally, and has any insight into what might have caused and/or aggravated a strain between the two men.

They were great talents - I wonder if nearly 40 years together just caused them to wear out their welcome with one another - familiarity breeding contempt and all.

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: keberoxu
Date: 16 May 18 - 05:24 PM

No insight from me, I'm afraid;
but what you say has been repeated a great deal,
and I don't know anything to refute it.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Stower
Date: 16 May 18 - 06:12 PM

If the music was good - which it certainly was - I wonder why this private element of their lives matters.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: meself
Date: 16 May 18 - 11:43 PM

Well - it is interesting that two people who detest each other off-stage can be so compatible on-stage, year after year. I would think that anyone who is a performer would wonder how that kind of dynamic works. But there is a grey area between 'professional interest' and old-fashioned nosiness.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 May 18 - 03:02 AM

The soul partnership Sam and Dave also never spoke to each other offstage or when not rehearsing. For well documented reasons. But their music, backed by the Stax team, was excellent.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 17 May 18 - 04:25 AM

Yes I saw them perform many times over the years starting with their first appearance in the UK in 1958. They were always very professional in their work together.
However any partnership particularly in the music business that lasts for so long is almost bound to bring some sort of discord. Life on the road isn't easy. They probably spent more time in each other's company every day during those years than many married couples do in the same period. Just think about it.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Mr Red
Date: 17 May 18 - 04:36 AM

I saw Brownie in Wellington NZ. And I got the distinct impression that he was playing with his accompanist (guitar).

Maybe Brownie's skill was such that he could switch rhythms or keys on a whim but for a thousand-seater venue, the accompanist was skilled also, just one of the best Kiwi bluesmen. Why do it to the audience, let alone a professional colleague? He already had sole billing. It didn't make for an uplifting performance.

I have seen people on TV opine that Magee would play tricks, like swapping the harps on Sonny's bandaleer for devilment. You can imagine the reaction of a blind man. It would be tiresome after 40 years, to put it mildly.

Nowt so queer as folk.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 17 May 18 - 05:32 AM

I saw them twice. On the second occasion they were each led on stage from a different side by their helpers. I wasn't aware of personal tension but have read about it since. Brownie mention in one of his introductions how he was Sonny's eyes and he could lean on Sonny. Nevertheless there was intense musical competition between them which added to the intensity of the performances.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 17 May 18 - 11:43 AM

Among blues and jazz musicians and probably others there has often been a "wicked"? sense of mischief. Pouring soapy water or some talc into the bell of a saxophone for example, adding a very small bag of sand daily into the F holes of the double bass until eventually the bass player complains he must be getting weaker, de-tuning a guitar etc. It all helped to relieve the boredom of life on the road with the same bunch for company. However I doubt that anybody would try pulling the same trick for forty years.
Personally I never saw Sonny using a bandolier, just various pockets.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: GUEST,turnip
Date: 17 May 18 - 11:45 AM

I don't much care for one of the guys in my band either...


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 17 May 18 - 12:00 PM

My first professional gig was opening for them in '67 at Gerde's Folk City in New York. They sat on opposite sides of the dressing room, and when people came to visit, they would sit with Brownie, or Sonny on that side of the room. The only time they would get together was to tune up just before they went on stage. No discussion of what was going to be played. They had been playing together by then for 20 years, and each was a consummate musician, and sideman. They even lived on opposite sides of the country later on, Brownie in Oakland California, Sonny had a home on Long Island I think.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Mr Red
Date: 18 May 18 - 04:08 AM

saw Sonny using a bandolier - my word

the story I heard involved something that was not on Sonny's person. It may have been a roll with pockets. But it couldn't have been on Sonny's person. Maybe it was in a box in the dressing room. But as I remember, it involved a linear arrangement and something to hold them. It didn't sound like a waistcoat/jacket.

The story did not have Sonny laugh it off, quite the reverse.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: GUEST,John James
Date: 18 May 18 - 05:02 AM

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. I was very privileged to travel with them and play on the same bill many times. I did their last tour of the UK. True they didn't socialise off stage together and didn't go through what they were going to play that night. Drummer Steve(from the USA) looked after Sonny on that tour.Brownie might start playing a tune in a different key to the night before, Sonny wouldn't say a word just change harps and not miss a beat !! The idea was that they would close the show playing Walk On and then walk off stage playing, with Sonny resting his hand on Brownie's shoulder, but sometimes Brownie would shoot off on his own. The last concert they played in the UK was The Corn Exchange, Manchester. Crowd hollering for an encore, me in the dressing room trying to persuade Brownie to get back on stage, him trying to persuade me that going for some fried chicken was a much better idea.."I don't wanna play with no sick man anymore "
Their relationship had run it's course, but the music lives on, great, great music they made. They were loud,kicked out a hell of a rhythm , big repertoire,great entertainers, and I had to sit there and listen to them every night. Lucky me. JJ


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 May 18 - 05:33 AM

nice remembering from John James and Mark Ross there. Thank you both.

Sonny and Brownie and Lightnin' Hopkins were my main guitar tutors when I was about 17. We weeren't a rich family but I could afford ten bob for this record label with a top hat. That featured the duo on one side and Sam LH on the other, plus an ensemble piece to end both sides.

My Mum said I was a disgrace listening to something that sounded like three drunken old men in a cellar - out of their head on drugs. But I wore the grooves down on that record and learned how to play damn nearly every note.

Love is a funny thing. You love your parents, who know how to press your buttons and hurt you - and I suppose somewhere in there in the mixwas love between Sonny and Brownie.


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 18 May 18 - 08:59 AM

Re: bandolier. I seem to remember Sonny wore bib-and-brace dungarees with custom sewn pockets on the bib for his harps.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Brownie and Sonny - frenemies?
From: Mr Red
Date: 20 May 18 - 03:52 AM

Well now, hush ma mouth for saying bandolier. But that is how my brain assumed the description fitted the word ----- however if we consult Wikipedia - Sonny Terry what do we see? (hint it begins with "B").

Wiki can be wrong (and corrected), but pictures don't lie! Well in the digital age we have to be a lot more critical but Wiki..............

And yes, on TV, I have seen Sonny using pockets for the various harps, maybe he arrived at that to thwart Brownie's tricks.


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