Sugar Blue can be heard on Honeyboy Edwards’ Earwig album, Roamin’ and Ramblin’ (CD 4953).
One of the foremost electric blues harpists of the modern era, Sugar Blue was born James Whiting in New York City in 1950. The son of a singer/dancer who regularly performed at the legendary Apollo Theater, he was given his first harmonica at the age of ten, and by his mid-teens had already performed in the company of Muddy Waters. In the early 1970s he made his first recordings, sitting in on sessions by the likes of Johnny Shines and Louisiana Red. Sugar Blue relocated to Paris in 1976, where he was introduced to the Rolling Stones; he went on to play on the group’s LPs Some Girls, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You, lending his skills to such hits as “Miss You.” He also played on jazz dates for Stan Getz and Paul Horn, and in 1979 cut the solo effort Crossroads. Upon returning to the U.S. in the mid-1980s, Sugar Blue settled in Chicago; after signing to Alligator, he cut Blue Blazes in 1994, followed a year later by In Your Eyes. He is now considered one of the foremost harmonica players in the world. When he first came to Chicago around 1976, he stayed briefly with David “Honeyboy’ Edwards, whom he had met in New York City at a gig Honeyboy had in Greenwich Village. He sat in with Honeyboy at a Chicago concert just after moving to Chicago and one of those tunes made it onto Honeyboy’s final CD, Roamin’ And Ramblin’, on Earwig Music. Since then, Sugar Blue has taken his place in the pantheon of harmonica players as one of the world’s greatest, blazing a new sound and style built on the techniques of the elders he so much respects.
-Written by Jason Ankeny, updated by Michael Frank