Born: February 1, 1951 Primary Instrument: Guitar, slide
Born in Mississippi, relocated to Lafayette, Louisiana, Sonny Landreth was immersed in the great Swamp-pop and Zydeco music of the area. He picked up a variety of musical styles playing with some of the best musicians on the Louisiana scene, while developing his considerable songwriting skills. One of Sonny's first professional gigs was with Zydeco legend Clifton Chenier.
Landreth's guitar capabilities landed him work as a sought-after session musician. He has played on records by John Hiatt, Bonnie Raitt, Zachary Richard, Freddy Fender, John Mayhall, Kenny Loggins, Beausoleill, Junior Wells, Dolly Parton, Maria Muldaur, Allen Toussaint, and Mark Knopfler. He hasn't really played on a big hit record, but he has played vital roles in other artist's careers.
The first thing guitar players do when they discover Sonny Landreth is scratch their heads and wonder how on earth he played what they just heard. He uses a slide but his strings are high off the frets and he is able to finger notes behind the slide. This totally unique style results in some of the most fascinating sounds heard from an electric guitar. Facilitating this new technique is a myriad of different tunings on his guitar. He uses so many different tunings that he has pioneered the use of an automatic guitar tuner mounted on his instrument.
Sonny played the trumpet as a teenager and uses hints of the articulation of the instrument on the guitar.
Although his grooves are typical Blues, Rock and Roll, and Zydeco beats, his approach uses his playing and songwriting to create a fresh new sound in roots music. Playing with just a bass player and a drummer, Landreth's sound can fill the biggest arenas and can stand toe-to toe with the biggest Rock acts. Probably the biggest wall of sound three musicians can erect.
It can be very hard for a modern artist to have a distinctive voice in the Blues. Some fans expect a certain approach that relates to the artists of the past. Sonny Landreth has shown that he can take that approach and create new grooves and sounds that are unconventional yet knee-deep in the spirit of the Blues. Along with young artists like the North Mississippi Allstars, Sonny is taking the Blues and the guitar to the next level just like Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughan.