Sunday, October 5, 2014

Juke Boy Bonner - The Texas Blues Troubadour

One-man bands weren't too common on the postwar blues scene. Joe Hill Louis and Dr. Ross come to mind as greats who plied their trade all by their lonesome -- and so did Juke Boy Bonner, a Texan whose talent never really earned him much in the way of tangible reward. Born into impoverished circumstances in the Lone Star State during the Depression, Weldon Bonner took up the guitar in his teens. He caught a break in 1947 in Houston, winning a talent contest that led to a spot on a local radio outlet. He journeyed to Oakland in 1956, cutting his debut single for Bob Geddins' Irma imprint ("Rock with Me Baby"/"Well Baby") with Lafayette "Thing" Thomas supplying the lead guitar. Goldband Records boss Eddie Shuler was next to take a chance in 1960; Bonner recorded for him in Lake Charles, LA, with Katie Webster on piano, but once again, nothing happened career-wise. Troubled by stomach problems during the '60s, Bonner utilized his hospital downtime to write poems that he later turned into songs. He cut his best work during the late '60s for Arhoolie Records, accompanying himself on both guitar and racked harmonica as he wove extremely personal tales of his rough life in Houston. A few European tours ensued, but they didn't really lead to much. Toward the end of his life, he toiled in a chicken processing plant to make ends meet. Bonner died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1978. (Allmusic-Bill Dahl)
If you haven't heard Juke Boy before please try and listen to the Arhoolie releases before listening to this lp as they are by far better.



Alan Balfour said...

In 1965 the late Mike Leadbitter visited Bonner and interviewed him at length. Mike was also a friend of Eddie Schuler and between them compiled an LP for the Danish Storyville Records.

In 1967 Mike visited him again and recorded a whole LP's worth using JB's own tape recorder. Click the article to read about the "session".

Xyros said...

Once again thank you Alan for the extra information.
It's the last Lp you mention "Juke Boy Bonner - The One-Man Trio on Flyright that I don't have in my collection.