Sonny Terry, 74, a vocalist and harmonica player who sang the blues from medicine shows to Carnegie Hall and figured prominently in the folk music revival of the 1940s and '50s, died March 11 at a hospital in Mineola, N.Y., the Associated Press reported. The cause of death was not given.
Mr. Terry, whose given name was Saunders Terrill, was associated for almost 50 years with Brownie McGhee, a guitarist and singer. They specialized in the so-called "Piedmont blues," an intricate, delicately melodic blues style based on McGhee's fluid finger-picking guitar.
On his own, Mr. Terry made his New York debut in the Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall in 1939.
Born in Greensboro, Ga., Mr. Terry was blinded by accidents in his youth. He took up the harmonica and learned to imitate the sounds of trains and nocturnal animals before going on to blues playing.
He was touring with medicine shows by the time he was 19 and later played in the streets of Durham, N.C., with two blind guitarists, Gary Davis and Blind Boy Fuller.
Mr. Terry cut his first records for Folkways during World War II and remained a prolific recording artist for the rest of his career. He appeared on Broadway in "Finian's Rainbow" and with McGhee in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
The two appeared together in the Steve Martin film "The Jerk." Mr. Terry also appeared in and provided some of the soundtrack music for "The Color Purple."
He is survived by his wife, Emma Terry, of Hollis, N.Y.