Otherwise known as James Whiting, Sugar Blue is a Grammy Award-winning harmonica master who was raised in Harlem, New York. Blue received his first harmonica from his aunt, and proceeded to hone his chops by wailing along with Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder songs on the radio. He was soon to be influenced by the jazz greats such as Dexter Gordon and Lester Young.
Sugar Blue began his career as a street musician and made his first recordings in 1975 with legendary Blues figures Brownie McGhee and Roosevelt Sykes. The following year, he contributed to recordings by Victoria Spivey and Johnny Shines before moving to Paris on the advice of pioneer Blues pianist Memphis Slim. While in France, Blue hooked up with members of the Rolling Stones, who instantly fell in love with his sound. The Stones invited Blue to join them in the studio. Besides his work on hit “Miss You” from the Some Girls album, he can be heard on Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You. He appeared live with the group on numerous occasions.
When he returned to the States, Blue went on to spend two years touring with his friend and mentor Willie Dixon as part of the Chicago Blues All Stars before putting his own band together in 1983. He received the 1985 Grammy Award for his work on the Atlantic album, Blues Explosion, recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. He recorded on Dixon's Grammy-winning Hidden Charms album in 1989, has performed on festival stages with classic artists like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Art Blakey and Lionel Hampton.
In 2008, following the release of Code Blue, Sugar Blue received two nominations as Best instrumentalist - Harmonica at the Blues Awards and as Outstanding Performer at the Junior Wells Harp Award in Memphis.