Sonny Rhodes (born Clarence Edward Smith, November 3, 1940, Smithville, Texas) is an American blues 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. He played bass behind Freddie King and his friend Albert Collins. After his stint in the Navy, Rhodes returned to California while in his mid-20s, and lived in Fresno, California for a few years before signing a recording contract with Galaxy Records in Oakland, California. In 1966, he recorded a single, "I Don't Love You No More" and another single for Galaxy in 1967 and then in 1978, out of total frustration with the San Francisco Bay Area record companies, he recorded "Cigarette Blues" on his own label, Rhodesway Records in 1978.
Rhodes toured Europe in 1976, opening the European market to him, and he recorded with several European labels, but without much success. His European recordings included I Don't Want My Blues Colored Bright and a live album, In Europe. In 1985, Just Blues, appeared on his own Rhodesway label. In the late 1980s, he began recording first for Ichiban Records and later for Kingsnake. His albums for Ichiban included Disciple of the Blues (1991) and Living Too Close to the Edge (1992). Aside from his self-produced 1985 release Just Blues, later releases included The Blues Is My Best Friend and Out of Control (1996).
Rhodes additionally recorded the theme music for the Firefly television series, "The Ballad of Serenity", which was written by the series' creator, Joss Whedon.
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