Sonny Sharrock

Sonny Sharrock

born on 27/8/1940 in Ossining, NY, United States

died on 26/5/1994 in Ossining, NY, United States

Sonny Sharrock

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Warren Harding "Sonny" Sharrock (August 27, 1940 – May 25, 1994) was an American jazz guitarist. He was married to singer Linda Sharrock, with whom he recorded and performed.

One of few guitarists in the first wave of free jazz in the 1960s, Sharrock was known for his heavily chorded attack, his highly amplified bursts of feedback, and his use of saxophone-like lines played loudly on guitar.


Early life and career

Sharrock began his musical career singing doo wop in his teen years. He collaborated with Pharoah Sanders and Alexander Solla in the late 1960s, appearing first on Sanders's 1966 album, Tauhid. He made several appearances with flautist Herbie Mann and an uncredited appearance on Miles Davis's A Tribute to Jack Johnson.

He wanted to play tenor saxophone from his youth after hearing John Coltrane on Davis's Kind of Blue on the radio at age 19, but his asthma prevented this. Sharrock said repeatedly, however, that he still considered himself "a horn player with a really fucked up axe." [1]

Three albums under Sharrock's name were released in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s: Black Woman (which has been described by one reviewer as bringing out the beauty in emotions rather than technical prowess[2]), Monkey-Pockie-Boo, and an album co-credited to both Sharrock and his wife, Paradise (an album by which Sharrock was embarrassed and stated several times that it was not good and should not be reissued [3][4]).

Career revival

After the release of Paradise, Sharrock was semi-retired for much of the 1970s, undergoing a divorce from his wife and occasional collaborator Linda in 1978. In the intermittent years until bassist Bill Laswell coaxed him out of retirement, he worked as both a chauffeur and a caretaker for mentally challenged children. At Laswell's urging, Sharrock appeared on Material's (one of Laswell's many projects) 1981 album, Memory Serves. In addition, Sharrock was a member of the punk/jazz band Last Exit, with Peter Brötzmann, Laswell and Ronald Shannon Jackson. During the late 1980s, he recorded and performed extensively with the New York-based improvising band Machine Gun, as well as leading his own bands. Sharrock flourished with Laswell's help, noting in a 1991 interview that "the last five years have been pretty strange for me, because I went twelve years without making a record at all, and then in the last five years, I've made seven records under my own name. That's pretty strange." [5]

Laswell would often perform with the guitarist on his albums, and produced many of Sharrock's recordings, including the entirely solo Guitar, the metal-influenced Seize the Rainbow, followed by one of his more universally accessible albums, High Life. Sonny was quoted as saying that this was his favorite band ever, with Abe Speller on drums, Lance Carter on Drums, Charles Baldwin on Bass and David Snider on keyboards. Followed by the well-received Ask the Ages, which featured John Coltrane's bandmates Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones. "Who Does She Hope To Be?" is a lyrical piece harkening back to the Coltrane/Davis Kind of Blue sessions that had inspired him to play. One writer described Ask the Ages as "hands down, Sharrock's finest hour, and the ideal album to play for those who claim to hate jazz guitar."[6] Sharrock is perhaps best known for the soundtrack to the Cartoon Network program Space Ghost Coast to Coast with his drummer Lance Carter, one of the last projects he completed in the studio before his death. The season 3 episode "Sharrock" carried a dedication to him at the end, and previously unheard music that he had recorded for the show featured throughout most of the episode. "Sharrock" premiered as the 23rd episode on March 1, 1996 on Cartoon Network.


On May 26, 1994, Sharrock died of a heart attack in his hometown of Ossining, New York, on the verge of signing the first major label deal of his career. He was 53.


French guitarist Noël Akchoté's 2004 album Sonny II features tracks written, performed and inspired by Sharrock. In August 2010, S. Malcolm Street in Ossining was officially renamed "Sonny Sharrock Way".[7][8] A sign was erected on Saturday, October 2, 2010.[9] Sharrock was also inducted into Ossining High School's Hall of Fame.


As leader

  • 1969: Black Woman (Vortex)
  • 1970: Monkey-Pockie-Boo (BYG Actuel)
  • 1975: Paradise (Atco)
  • 1982: Dance with Me, Montana (Marge)
  • 1986: Guitar (Enemy)
  • 1987: Seize the Rainbow (Enemy)
  • 1989: Live in New York (Enemy)
  • 1990: Highlife (Enemy)
  • 1991: Faith Moves (CMP) duo with Nicky Skopelitis
  • 1991: Ask the Ages (Axiom)
  • 1996: Space Ghost Coast to Coast (Cartoon Network)
  • 1996: Into Another Light (Enemy) compilation

With Last Exit

  • Köln (ITM, 1990)
  • Last Exit (Enemy, 1986)
  • The Noise of Trouble (Enemy, 1986)
  • Cassette Recordings '87 (Enemy, 1987)
  • Iron Path (Venture, 1988)
  • Headfirst into the Flames: Live in Europe (MuWorks, 1993)

As sideman

With Pheeroan akLaff

  • Sonogram (Mu Works, 1989)

With Roy Ayers

  • Daddy Bug (Atlantic, 1969)

With Ginger Baker

  • No Material (ITM, 1989)

With Brute Force

  • Brute Force (Embryo, 1970)

With Don Cherry

  • Eternal Rhythm (MPS, 1968)

With Miles Davis

  • A Tribute to Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970)
  • The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (Columbia, 1970 [2003])

With Green Line

  • Green Line (Nivico, 1970) with Steve Marcus, Miroslav Vitous and Daniel Humair

With Byard Lancaster

  • It's Not Up to Us (Vortex, 1966 [1968])

With Machine Gun

  • Machine Gun (Mu, 1988)
  • Open Fire (Mu, 1989)

With Herbie Mann

  • Windows Opened (Atlantic, 1968)
  • The Inspiration I Feel (Atlantic, 1968)
  • Memphis Underground (Atlantic, 1969)
  • Concerto Grosso in D Blues (Atlantic, 1969)
  • Live at the Whisky a Go Go (Atlantic, 1969)
  • Stone Flute (Embryo, 1970)
  • Memphis Two-Step (Embro, 1970)
  • Herbie Mann '71 (Embryo, 1971)
  • Hold On, I'm Comin' (Atlantic, 1973)

With Material

  • Memory Serves (Celluloid, 1981)

With Pharoah Sanders

  • Tauhid (Impulse!, 1966)
  • Izipho Zam (My Gifts) (Strata-East, 1969 [1973])

With Wayne Shorter

  • Super Nova (Blue Note, 1969)

With The Stalin

  • Fish Inn (1986 Mix) (Tokuma Onkou, 1986)

With Marzette Watts

  • Marzette and Company (ESP-Disk, 1966)


  1. ^ Stagener, Dave. (1998). Sound Practices Mailing List Files - Volume 1. Subject: Re: Jazz Tips. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2004-10-10. Retrieved 2004-09-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ (2000). The Music Forum – Reviews: Sonny Sharrock – Black Woman Retrieved January 5, 2008, from
  3. ^ Ratliff, Ben & Sharrock, Sonny. (1990). Interview with Sonny Sharrock, WKCR-FM, New York City, 1989. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-05-05. Retrieved 2007-01-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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