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Sonny Rhodes

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Sonny Rhodes (born Clarence Edward Smith, November 3, 1940, Smithville, Texas) is an American singer and lap steel guitar player. He has recorded over two hundred songs. “I’m what you call a self-proclaimed Disciple of the Blues!” said Rhodes about his years playing and singing for fans of blues around the world. He has been nominated fifteen times for the Blues Music Awards, and won the Instrumentalist-Other category in 2011.

Rhodes was born in Smithville, Texas, he was the sixth and last child of Le Roy and Julia Smith, who were sharecroppers. He received his first guitar at the age of eight as a Christmas present and really became serious about the blues at age 12. He credits his uncle as his source of inspiration. Rhodes began performing around Smithville and nearby Austin in the late 1950s, while still in his teens. Rhodes listened to a lot of T-Bone Walker’s music when he was young, and other guitarists he credits as being influences include L. C. Robinson, Percy Mayfield, Pee Wee Crayton and B. B. King. Rhode’s first band, Clarence Smith and the Daylighters, played the Austin area blues clubs before Rhodes joined the Navy after high school graduation.

In the Navy, he was stationed in California, where he worked for a while as a radio man and closed-circuit Navy ship disc jockey, telling off-color jokes in between the country and blues records he would spin for the entertainment of the sailors. Rhodes recorded a single for Domino Records in Austin, “I’ll Never Let You Go When Something Is Wrong” in 1958, and also learned to play the bass guitar.

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