Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Sonny Rhodes (born Clarence Edward Smith, November 3, 1940 in Smithville, Texas), is an American blues singer and lap steel guitar player. Throughout the last 37 years, Rhodes has recorded over two hundred songs. "I'm what you call a self-proclaimed Disciple of the Blues!" says Sonny about his years playin' and singin' for fans of Real Blues music round the world. He has been nominated for the Blues Music Awards eleven times.

Biography
Rhodes was born in Smithville, Texas, he was the sixth and last child of Le Roy and Julia Smith, who were both 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 '50s, while still in his teens. Rhodes listened to a lot of T-Bone Walker when he was young, and it shows in his playing today. Other guitarists he credits as being influences include Pee Wee Crayton and B.B. King. Rhodes's first band, Clarence Smith and the Daylighters, played the Austin area blues clubs before Rhodes decided to join the Navy after graduating from high school.

In the Navy, he moved west to 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 bass. 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 for a few years before hooking up a deal with Galaxy Records in Oakland, California. In 1966, he recorded a single, "I Don't Love You No More" b/w "All Night Long I Play the Blues." He recorded 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 record label Rhodesway Records in 1978.

Rhodes toured Europe in 1976, and that opened a whole new European market to him, and he was recorded by several European labels, but without much success. His European recordings include I Don't Want My Blues Colored Bright and a live album, In Europe. In desperation again, Rhodes went into the studio again to record an album in 1985, Just Blues, on his own Rhodesway label. Fortunately, things have been on track for Rhodes since the late '80s, when he began recording first for the Ichiban Records and later for Kingsnake. His albums for Ichiban include Disciple of the Blues (1991) and Living Too Close to the Edge (1992). More recently, Rhodes has gotten better distribution of his albums with the Sanford, Florida-based Kingsnake label. Aside from his self-produced 1985 release Just Blues (now available on compact disc through Evidence Music), his best albums include the ones he's recorded for Kingsnake, for these are the records that have gotten Rhodes and his various backup bands out on the road together throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. They include The Blues Is My Best Friend and his 1996 release, Out of Control. On these albums we hear Rhodes, the fully developed songwriter, and not surprisingly, both releases drew high marks from blues critics. He may be best known for recording the theme song for the Firefly television series, "The Ballad of Serenity", which was written by the series' creator, Joss Whedon.

He's a living legend from East Bay Oakland to the Florida coast. He has played at the legendary San Francisco Blues Festival six times; Italy's Musicamdo Jazz & Blues Festival in 2005; and the Fresno Blues Festival in 2007.