Born in Chicago, Illinois, William “Billy Boy” Arnold was a blues singer-songwriter and harmonica player. Picking up the harmonica as a child, by the age of 13 he began having informal lessons from his then-neighbour John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson!
Five years later in 1952 he made his recording debut with Hello Stranger, a track released on the small Cool label – the record company who were also responsible for giving him the nickname “Billy Boy.” Lots began happening for him around the early 1950’s and it was also at this time that he joined forces with street musician Bo Diddley, playing harmonica on Diddley’s 1955 track, I’m a Man. In the following years Billy Boy continued to record many of his self-penned songs, some of which weren’t released until a box set entitled Chess Blues 1947-1967 was released in 1992!! It was after signing his solo contract with Vee-Jay Records that he recorded the originals of I Wish You Would and I Ain’t Got You,” both of which were later covered by the likes of The Yardbirds and Bowie!!
Whilst with Vee-Jay Records Arnold released today’s corker, Prisoner’s Plea. Released as a single in 1957 the song is a remorseful ode to the misery of prison life. Driven by a lively rhythm and repentant vocals, lyrics sorrowfully proclaim how since I’ve been here/I think I’ll go mad/why did I ever have to be so bad. A guitar howls as if mirroring this tormented lament as Arnold pledges if they ever lordy let me go/ I wont ever do wrong no more……Check it out above.