He picked up
his first pair of sticks at the age of 2. He began playing drums professionally
at the age of 12; at 14 he was working four nights a week in clubs. At 16 he
broke the world’s record for longest drum solo.
the 1960s with B. E. Taylor in a band called “The Redcoats,” Sonny began to hone
his performance skills. As he matured as an artist, he understood the concept of
filling space. “Being a drummer is like painting a picture. But instead of
colors and shapes, you use rhythms,” he said.
rhythms were heard throughout the United States and Canada as he worked with
such greats as steel guitarist Buddy Emmons, screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch, and
groups such as the Coasters, the Skyliners and many others. His years in Los
Angeles studios and on L.A. stages included playing with the band “Elvis
Montana,” a top country/western rock band in the 1980s.
home, he worked with musical artists such as Kenny Blake, Etta Cox, Al Dowe,
Tony Janflone Jr., Billy Price, Shari Richards, and Sputzy and The Soul
Providers, as well as many other regional musicians. One of his favorite gigs
was playing for school kids in the Pittsburgh Gateway to the Arts school
assembly program, which he did for over ten years with Etta Cox.
One of the
high points of his career came in 1992 when legendary jazz drummer Louis Bellson
endorsed Sonny’s method textbook, with Bellson asserting that he practiced with
the book while he was on the road. Bellson further noted that Sonny’s “Slick
Licks” text got “right to the core of what a drummer needs to know.”
during this same time period that he also became known as the “Upper St. Clair
drummer” in his successful push to get a home occupation ordinance zoning law passed in
that community, where he made his home with his two stepsons, two dogs, his HO
model trains, and his wife Annie.
years later, and after a six-year illness, he would finally succumb to colon
cancer. During his last days, like all who face their end, he wondered what his
legacy might be. It would prove to be his sons and his music, as he would have