Billy Boy Arnold firmly established himself as one of the foremost practitioners of classic Chicago blues. His wailing harmonica playing and soulful vocals are a perfect match for his streetwise songwriting. The combination of Delta- influenced blues with a more urban sophistication not only defines Arnold's sound, but was also a significant contribution in the early, formative days of rock and roll. His early work with Bo Diddley and his highly influential singles in the late 1950s, brought him some local attention, but he never received the recognition he rightly deserved.
There are many harmonica players to come out the Chicago blues scene. Many, like Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jr. Wells and James Cotton, have made blues history. Billy Boy Arnold was also there during this great movement.
Born in Chicago in 1935, Arnold grew up in an environment teeming with blues legends from Muddy Waters to Howlin' Wolf. Actually upon hearing the records of John Lee Williamson, Arnold decided to pursue the harmonica and by age 17 he was performing with Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie and the great Johnny Temple. It was also at the age of 17 that he recorded his first record. Chicago, in the early '50s, was a time when a blues band couldn't get work unless it featured a harmonica player. Arnold, who got his nickname Billy Boy from a record executive commenting on his youth, met Bo Diddley performing on a Chicago street corner in 1953 and soon teamed up with the great guitarist. Arnold's unique beat helped develop the Diddley sound and in 1955 they recorded a huge hit for Chess Records, Bo Diddley b/w I'm A Man.