How’d You Learn To Shake It Like That

Snooky Pryor

Snooky’s Amplified Harp

Snooky Pryor (harmonica & vocals) performs at the 1991 Chicago Blues Festival accompanied by Johnny Nicholas and Derek O’Brien (guitars), Bob Stroger (bass), and Ted Harvey (drums).

James “Snooky” Pryor was born an raised in Mississippi where he developed a delta harmonica style influenced by both Sonny Boy Williamsons I and II before moving to Chicago around 1940. He first got the idea for amplifying his harmonica while serving in the military from the Army’s powerful PA system used for the bugle call. After his discharge from the Army in 1945 he bought his own amplifier and began playing harmonica at Chicago’s outdoor Maxwell Street Market.

Pryor recorded some of the first postwar Chicago blues records in 1948, including “Telephone Blues” and “Snooky & Moody’s Boogie” with guitarist Moody Jones, and “Stockyard Blues” and “Keep What You Got” with singer/guitarist Floyd Jones. In 1967, Pryor moved south to Ullin, Illinois and quit music for carpentry soon after. After he dropped out of sight, Pryor was later re-discovered and was persuaded to make a comeback, resuming periodic recording until his death in nearby Cape Girardeau, Missouri at the age of 85.

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