Edwin Bradfield Liloa “Sonny” Chillingworth

The Three Giants of Ki ho ‘alu (Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar)

Another of the slack key “big three,” Sonny Chillingworth started playing guitar at the age of 12 when he lived on Moloka’i. Family legend has it that one day his father brought an old recod player and some records to the house. One of the records was Gabby Pahinui’s Hi’ilawe, and the rest, as they say, is history. Three years later he visited Honolulu and his mom arranged for him to meet Gabby. Sonny learned his lessons well and after high school moved to Honolulu to play with Gabby, at clubs, lu’aus and all-night jam sessions.

Sonny made his first recording in 1954, of Makee ‘Ailana, (one of my all –time favorite songs.) Ten years later he released his first album. Waimea Cowboy, which sold spectacularly.

As part of the “Hawaiian Renaissance” of the 1970s, Sonny began to share his knowledge with younger performers. Such notable players as George Kuo, Ozzie Kotani and Makana studied under Sonny, and the world is so much richer for their having done so.

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