The legendary Snooky Pryor passed away today. He was one of the originators of amplifed blues harmonica, he also had some of the biggest and baddest tone I've ever heard live or on records. He was simply huge! A true legend. A one of a kind.
He recorded some great tunes in the 50's and was formative on the Chicago Blues scene. My favorite modern recordings that he did were for the Blind Pig label. I think that's the one with Steve Freund on it. It's a great album.
The first time that I ever saw him was at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz. Rusty Zinn and Scot Brenton were backing him up. Scot is an excellent player with some great tone. He and Snooky did a few tunes together. Scot hung in for a while, but Snooky Pryor just tore it up and I remember Scot and Rusty laughing and watching and listening to Snooky play.
The next time I saw him, I was on a business trip in Austin. I stayed over Friday night to catch him and Lazy Lester at Antone's. Snooky Pryor was jawdropping. His tone and technique was simply amazing. It was so powerful that it left a huge impression on me. I was sitting right in front of the Victoria Bassman that he was using. It was like a wall of heavy sound that washed over you. On his intro to Judgement Day, he hits a chord three times and it would resonate through your entire body. His tone and sound was amazing. He was one of those old school singers that had a powerfully loud and deep voice.
The last time I saw him was in Long Beach. He was onstage with Carey Bell, Sugar Blue, Billy Branch, Charlie Musselwhite and Billy Boy Arnold. He sounded fabulous and proved he was still one of the baddest players alive. He also demonstrated that he was the missing link between down home sounds of John Lee Williamson and the flashy, brash sound of Little Walter during his heyday. A lot of young harp players could really learn a lot from Snooky Pryor. He was a tough, tough player. Using one word to describe him, it would have to be: