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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sonny West born 30 July 1937

Sonny West {born July 30, 1937, near Lubbock, Texas) is a rock and roll-musician. He wrote "Oh, Boy!" and several other Buddy Holly songs. 
Joe "Sonny" was the fifth and last child of Joseph & Alberta West. He was born July 30 1937 at the family home in Clovis Road, on the outskirts of Lubbock. Shortly afterwards the family moved to El Morro, a rural area near Grants, NM where the family homesteaded 160 acres. Although the family invariably lived in remote areas, which didn't have electricity, Sonny was listening to the family's collection of 78's on a wind-up gramophone by the age of 6. This covered marching songs by John Philip Sousa to Gene Austin and Jimmie Rodgers train songs. 

Sonny played various brass instruments at school and took up mandolin during a spell in California. On returning to New Mexico he had private guitar lessons from Michael Lee Bell whose father was a local musician. School Music Appreciation courses introduced him to classical music but by his early teens Sonny was more interested in blues, especially Jimmy Reed, together with some country by the likes of Hank Williams. This naturally led him to rock & roll. Sonny left school in Gallup, NM at age 17 and started working at a general store in a Navajo Reservation where it was normal to trade shop merchandise for handmade Indian jewellery and rugs. He'd already been working school concerts and whatever other gigs he could find.  

By late 1955 Sonny was living in Farmington, NM where he befriended Gibson-playing lead guitarist, Buddy Smith. They worked together on a live Saturday night show for the local station, Radio KENN and whatever gigs they could find. Around April 1956 Sonny phoned Sam Phillips in hopes of an audition for Sun Records but Sam discouraged the idea. Nevertheless he quit his job at a Ford dealership and made the long speculative trip to Memphis in his '51 Chevy to audition. But Sam wouldn't even listen, saying he already had too much talent to handle. The trip wiped out all Sonny's money and he moved in with his sister Ramona and her husband in Texas. He met and was encouraged by Bob Kaliff, a DJ at the local Radio KLVT. 

Sonny soon formed a band with Jimmy Metz (string bass) and Doc McKay (drums) and as the sound developed he asked Smith to join the band with the intention of getting a recording contract. McKay's mother ran a Dance Studio, which the group used to rehearse and write songs. They were never more than part-time musicians but worked as far away as Dallas, where they guested on the Big 'D' Jamboree but discovered they couldn't follow Jerry Reed. They also had a residency at a Lubbock teen club (probably the Bamboo) where Sonny met Buddy Holly. The two also worked on KDAV's Sunday Party.

Sonny began recording demos of his songs; one was titled All My Love which was covered by Buddy Holly as Oh Boy for which Norman Petty added his name to the composer credits. Sonny left Clovis after a blazing row at a 1958 recording session between Sonny & Norman.  

Sonny, like many others, may have had mixed feelings about his association with Norman Petty but his income as a songwriter was certainly increased thanks to Buddy Holly and The Crickets recording his songs. Whether Petty's share of the songwriting and publishing royalties of these songs could be justified is less certain, and Sonny's career as a singer certainly faltered after he refused to assign a third of the writer's share along with the customary 50% publishers cut. Despite this, he remained in contact with Norman and Vi Petty until their deaths and continued to offer them new songs. Unfortunately, the present owners of the Petty Studios have not responded to Sonny's requests to return to him the unissued (and possibly forgotten) recordings that probaby remain in their vaults. 

Sadly, in the early 1960's he became involved in a pseudo-religious group which almost destroyed him partly because he agreed to their demand he renounce music and trash all copies of his discs. 

Since quitting music Sonny has paid the bills by distributing and

repairing jukeboxes and pinball machines, naturally including Rock-Ola product! He gained a patent on a new cartridge which allowed modern microgroove stereo discs to be played on old jukeboxes. He's also worked as a rancher and silversmith but became a photocopier technician in 1985.
 In 1990 Sonny privately issued a 12 song cassette including one new song, the clever "Ride", which may be the only song to link "Maybelline", "CC Rider" and Luke The Drifter, and a new version of "Oh Boy" which was inspired by an "Oh Buick" car advert and contains the new line "Oh Boy, I've Seen The Light" which pays homage to Hank Williams and is perhaps Sonny's reaction to composer credits on publishing contracts. 

West’s ‘50s life as a musician and songwriter was not easy, especially because of his parents’ frequent relocations in the Southwest. But that didn’t dissuade him from his artistic expression. It only made him more determined, and even though West experienced frequent, rock-ribbed painful moments of discouragement, he had the strength and exceptional talent to meet that powerful negative head on and come away a winner. Without a doubt, Sonny West has earned his due as a major historic contributor during the maturation of rock ‘n’ roll while it was in its early infancy.  

West is one of the original inductees of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame® and the West Texas Musicians Hall of Fame and is the recipient of BMI's million airplays award. His songs have been recorded by scores of artists and are featured in dozens of movies, TV shows and documentaries.

Sonny continues to write and record his own material and since coming out of musical retirement in 2001 regularly appears on stage shows and roots music shows performing his well known classics.  (info edited mainly from

Blue Monday ( France ) Presents " There's A Good Rockin' Tonight 10 éme Anniversary " Festival d'Attignat 29 / 04 / 2012 Tommy Allsup & Sonny West - It's So Easy

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For Sonny West – Sweet Rockin’ Rock-Ola Ruby go here:

Part 1 –
Part 2 –

01 – Sweet Rockin’ Baby (2:21)
02 – Rock Ola Ruby (2:18)
03 – All My Love (Oh Boy) (1:55)
04 – Rave On (2:10)
05 – Call On Cupid (2:02)
06 – Dreamboat (2:08)
07 – Baby Bessie Lee (2:11)
08 – Doll Britches (2:12)
09 – Linda Loves A Hula Hoop (2:18)
10 – Love Denied (3:17)
11 – Pretty Little Girl (2:21)
12 – Wasted Days And Wasted Nights (2:28)
13 – Maybe You’re The One (2:41)
14 – Evening Star (2:28)
15 – Sugar Hill (1:54)
16 – Ride (3:36)
17 – Oh Boy (2:19)
18 – Dire Need (2:11)
19 – Rave Is Gone (2:48)
20 – Cast Iron Arm (2:26)
21 – Bad Case (2:28)
22 – Big City Woman (2:06)
23 – Sweet Dreams (3:29)
24 – I’ve Had It (2:17)