Southwest Louisiana-based guitarist, songwriter, and singer Sonny Landreth is a musician’s musician. His blues slide guitar playing is distinctive and unlike anything else you’ve ever heard. Sonny’s unorthodox guitar style comes from the manner in which he simultaneously plays slide and makes fingering movements on the fretboard. Landreth, who has an easygoing personality, can play it all, like any good session musician. His distinctive guitar playing can be heard on recordings by John Hiatt, Leslie West and Mountain, and other rock & rollers.
Landreth was born February 1, 1951, in Canton, Mississippi, and his family lived in Jackson, Mississippi, for a few years before settling in Lafayette, Louisiana. Landreth began playing guitar after a long tenure with the trumpet. His earliest inspiration came from Scotty Moore, the guitarist from Elvis Presley’s band, but as time went on, he learned from the recordings of musicians and groups like Chet Atkins and the Ventures. As a teen, Landreth began playing with his friends in their parents’ houses.
On Landreth’s brilliant albums for Zoo, Outward Bound (1992) and South of I-10 (1995), the lyrics draw the listener into the sights, sounds, smells, and heat of southwest Louisiana, and a strong sense of place is evident in many of Landreth’s songs. Although his style is completely his own and his singing is more than adequate, Landreth admits that writers like William Faulkner have had a big influence on his lyric writing. The fact that it’s taken so long for academics at American universities to recognize the great body of poetry to be found in the blues concerns Landreth as well. Robert Johnson is Landreth’s big hero when it comes to guitar playing. “When I finally discovered Robert Johnson, it all came together for me,” Landreth said, noting that he also closely studied the recordings of Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, and Charley Patton. Landreth finally released an all- instrumental album, Elemental Journey, in 2012, his 11th solo project that wed blues to classical and jazz stylings with a full orchestra. In 2013, the guitarist made his fourth appearance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival.