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Sonny Chillingworth


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“Sonny” Chillingworth aka “The Waimea Cowboy” was born Edwin Bradfield Liloa Chillingworth, Jr. on July 14, 1932 on Oahu, Hawaii and died from cancer, aged 62, on August 24, 1994 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Chillingworth was a slack-key guitar player and is widely regarded as one of the most influential slack key guitarists in history. He started playing the guitar at age twelve when he was living with his grandfather, Harry Purdy, on Moloka’i. He learned the Hawaiian style by listening, watching and imitating.

One day his father brought him a Victrola and some records. One of them was Hi’ilawe by Gabby Pahinui. Chillingworth was inspired. When Chillingworth was fifteen, he visited Honolulu and his mother arranged a meeting with Pahinui. After high school, Chillingworth moved to Honolulu and joined Pahinui, Andy Cummings and others at clubs, lu’aus and all-night jam sessions.

In 1954, Chillingworth made his first record, Make’e ‘Ailana, with the legendary Vickie Ii Rodrigues. In 1964, Chillingworth released his first album, Waimea Cowboy, which earned a gold record.

In the 1970s, Chillingworth began to share his knowledge with younger performers, such as George Kuo and Ozzie Kotani, and influenced others through his recordings. Chillingworth helped lead a revival of the slack key guitar style in the 1980s as one of slack key’s elder statesman.

Chillingworth was committed to Hawaiian music, but also enjoyed playing other styles such as rock oldies, R&B, blues and folk.


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  • huggerry

    Sonny is a formidable artist I love to hear when I want to relax

    9 Aug 2009 Reply

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