|Sonny was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the second
of three children. He showed little evidence of
early interest in the steel guitar. In fact, he said,
"until just before I graduated from high school, I
hated the sound of it." But while delivering
papers one day, he met a customer who played
steel at local dances and the two started talking
about the instrument. The friend's name was
Bobby Irwin. Bobby began playing records for
Sonny by a steel guitarist named Jerry Byrd .
Before long, the youngster was accompanying
Bobby to dances in order to watch him play.
"Frankly, it took listening to the instrument live
to capture my interest," Sonny said. "I was
fascinated by the use of the bar, the fact that the
instrument wasn't fretted, and the player's ability
to make the proper notes by positioning the bar."
"I also admired another local steel player whose
name was Marshall Looney." ----------->
|When his family asked Sonny what he wanted for
graduation, he said a steel guitar. His sister Marjorie
happily obliged. Sonny took lessons for a couple of
months, but became disgusted because of having to learn
by note. He just wanted to get that "Nashville Sound" so
he started studying on his own. Becoming discouraged
he decided to play the mandolin. Becoming even further
discouraged, he turned back to the steel. "When Bud
Issacs came along with pedals, I really dug that sound,"
|It wasn't until two years later that he got his first amp. "I used to wait until
everyone went to bed and I would practice in my bedroom. The house was
quiet enough for me to hear the guitar sounds." "I didn't have anyone to
help me so I set up the guitar and put the tuning on it that later turned out to
be inverted to the way everyone else plays. Roger Blevins who then played
for Dusty Owens on the Wheeling Jamboree, was the first person to tell me I
was playing backwards.
|Sonny's first professional job was working with Bobby
Bare in a Wellston, Ohio, club. Soon Bobby put out a hit
single called "The All American Boy" and left the area
to tour. Sonny continued to work local clubs working
with Johnny Paycheck (who was then Donny Young).
Sonny made a few tapes at a friend's house, one of which
landed in the hands of a popular performer named
George Jones. George asked Sonny to join the Jones
Boys, which consisted of Charley Justice, Don, Gary and
|Sonny, George, Johnny
Paycheck, Jerry Starr
and Charlie Justice on the
Jimmy Dean Show.
|George Jones & The Jones
|Tammy Wynette &
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|Bobby Whitten, Sonny, James Holley, Tammy,
Milton Smith, Kenny Jansen and Charlie Carter
|Sonny playing at
Nashville, Tn. (1968) with
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