On December 5th and 6th, 1998, prominent blues harmonica players from around the country convened in the Mississippi Delta town of Glendora, birthplace of blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson II (Aleck Rice Miller), to pay tribute to his musical legacy and conduct a blues harp teach-in to benefit the town's newly-opened Sonny Boy Williamson Library and Community Center. They distributed 250 donated harmonicas to the children of Glendora attending the Teach-In. 

Sugar Blue, Paul deLay, Blind Mississippi Morris, Arthur Williams, Mark Sallings and Charlie Sayles all participated in the weekend, and New Orleans was well represented by masterful harpists Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, Bruce 'Sunpie' Barnes, and Rockin' Jake Jacobs. The Delta Blues Education Project was represented by acclaimed blues teacher "Mister Johnnie" Billington and some of the Project's advanced students. Several regional amateur players from around the South also assisted with the teach-in, as did Venezuelan harpist Alfredo Barranco, who came all the way from his home in South America.

Eighty-seven children -- more than half of the town's total under-18 population -- completed both days of the workshop and received 'blues diplomas' at the end of the weekend.

Public Harp Summit performances by the players contributing their time to the teach-in occurred on the evenings of December 4th (at B.B. King's Club in Memphis), December 5th (at the Sonny Boy Music Hall in Helena, Arkansas), and December 6th (at Huey's in Memphis). 

All player/teachers and other supporters of the event volunteered their time and skills without pay to benefit the Center and the town of Glendora, an extraordinarily impoverished community even by the usual dire standards of the Mississippi Delta area. With a population of 400, more than 93% of its inhabitants live more than 50% below the poverty limit. Children comprise 167 of Glendora's citizens, many of whom are relatives of Sonny Boy Williamson but had never heard his music until a video about him was shown at the Center's dedication last August. Glendora's mayor, Johnny B. Thomas, is himself a cousin of Sonny Boy on his mother's side. 

Supporters of the event included The Southern Music Network ; Hohner Harmonicas; Hering Harmonicas of Brazil; Lee Oskar Enterprises; The Memphis Flyer; The Sonny Boy Blues Society; The Beale Street Blues Society; MCA Records; the Delta Blues Education Project; The Blues Foundation; and Jay Sheffield Entertainment of Memphis.

Lee Oskar donated a dozen valuable player-autographed harmonicas to be used as raffle prizes in a book and record donation campaign for the Center, as were ten vintage Sonny Boy tee-shirts donated by the Hohner Company, two complete sets of Sonny Boy's Chess Records catalog (7 CDs), donated by Universal Music Group/MCA Records, and Handy Awards posters donated by The Blues Foundation. 

The Sonny Boy Williamson Community Center and Library is in need of all of the kinds of items imaginable: books, records, videos, computer equipment, etc. Mayor Thomas's own particular wish for computer equipment for the children served by the Center was fulfilled by Star Financial Services, a California company that donated five complete computer systems. 

Individuals interested in donating books, records, equipment or money to the Sonny Boy Center can send them in care of: The Sonny Boy Williamson Community Center & Library ATTN: Mayor Johnny B. Thomas 132 Main Street Glendora, Mississippi 38928

All contributions will be tax-deductible under the the Center's non-profit status. 

For further information about the event, email event organizer Maggie Mortensen, 

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Bruce 'Sunpie' Barnes takes his classroom outside at the
Glendora Teach-In
and accompanies the harp-playing kids on accordion

"Sunshine" Sonny Payne (1998) - Sonny Boy Williamson, "Good Evening Everybody" recorded Aug. 12, 1955 - Sonny Boy, "V-8 Ford" King Biscuit Time radio broadcast, recorded at KFFA in Helena, Ark. May. 1965 - Sonny Payne Interview, recorded at KFFA Feb. 5, 1996 - Intro to the 12,437th broadcast of King Biscuit Time, recorded Feb. 5, 1996 - Sonny Boy, "Crazy About You Baby" recorded Mar. 12, 1951 - Sonny Boy Corn Meal Commercial -Sonny Payne - Sonny Boy, "Fattening Frogs For Snakes" recorded Feb. 8, 1957 - Sonny Payne - Sonny Boy, "Ninety Nine" recorded Sept. 1957 King Biscuit Flour Commercial - Sonny Boy, "Stormy Monday" King Biscuit Time radio broadcast May. 1965 

Sonny Boy Williamson Blues Harp Summit Live at B.B. King's. Recorded Dec. 4, 1998 on Historic Beale Street in Memphis, TN. Live mix by: Jeff Mcolgan- M.C. Scrap Iron. Performers - Junkyardmen / Pete Pedersen- Blind Mississippi Morris - Paul Delay

Sonny Boy Williamson Blues Harp Summit & Teach - In. Recorded Dec. 4, & 5, 1998 Sonny Boy Williamson II Library & Community Center in Glendora, MS. - Mayor Johnny B. Thomas - Kids of Glendora - Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes - Rockin' Jake - Kids of Glendora - Paul Delay - Blind Misissippi Morris 

Sonny Boy Williamson Blues Harp Summit Live at Sonny Boy's Music Hall recorded Dec. 5, 1998 in Helena, Ark.- Performers Jumpin' Johnny Sanson - Arthur Williams - Charlie Salyes

Photo of Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes & Kids by: Bill Donoghue aka 'fessor Mojo, host,

Special Thanks to Bubba Sullivan at Bubba's Blues Corner in Helena, Ark.

Mark Sallings - Report on Glendora

Sonny Boy Williamson II (aka Rice Miller, Sonny Boy Williamson #2, Willie Williamson) (born Aleck Miller, 1910, Glendora, Mississippi. died May 25, 1965, Helena, Arkansas.)

Sonny Boy Williamson was one of the most influential harmonica players in blues history. Aside from being a harp player who helped set the course of modern blues, Sonny Boy Williamson #2 was also a legendary blues character whose colorful personality, unpredictable actions, and frequent stretching of the truth only served to enliven his blues with a rare, but warmly embraced, eccentricity.

Williamson's harp style included intricately woven phrases, bold sonic textures, trills and vibrato, a wide range of dynamic passion, and a superb sense of timing. He was also an effective showman - he could, for instance, put the entire harp in his mouth and still draw notes.

More important, his playing made the harp the center attraction, no matter how many other great blues musicians shared the stage with him. Yet Williamson was more than just a blues harp genius and potent performer; he was also a superb tunesmith. Many of his songs - "One Way Out," "Don't Start Me Talking," "Cross My Heart," "Eyesight To The Blind," "Mighty Long Time," "Help Me," and "Nine Below Zero" - are acknowledged blues classics and staples in any serious blues harmonica player's repertoire.

Williamson was also a convincing singer and the blues' first radio star. His daily performances on the Helena, Arkansas, radio station KFFA in the 1940s, which were heard throughout eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, and the Mississippi Delta, not only made him a celebrity but also influenced an entire generation of blues musicians living in the region. The Big Book of Blues : A Biographical Encyclopedia; Robert Santelli


King Biscuit Time

Sonny Boy Blues Society

W.C. Handy Awards

The Blues Foundation

The Blue Highway