Born in the early fifties inPaducahKentucky, young Cleofuss Leadbetter moved to St. Louisto escape the government roundup of young men to work on the TVA projects. In fifth grade, Sonny McGraw began playing a Buescher Aristocrat Alto Saxophone that he still owns today!
His first choice was to play the drums, however with direction from his father that the drums were “ Just too Damn Loud! “ the saxophone became the instrument of choice which turns out is much easier to carry, set up than an entire set of drums, cymbals etc.
Besides, once Sonny heard the Theme from My Three Sons he wanted to be Fred Mac Murray.
Sonny’s first big break came in seventh grade while a member of “The Chaparrals”(every band had a car name in those days) played for the junior high school wide assembly and sang the hot tune of the day “Time Won’t Let Me ´by the Outsiders. Two shows that day!
Through Junior High and High School , Sonny teamed up with long time friend John Orlando and a group called the “The Deuces Wild” playing anything from Weddings , Bar mitzvah’s .,dog shows, and anything that would pay ….Another millstone in Sonny’s career was beating rival band “The Shadows “ in a battle of the bands to win an appearance on “The Charlotte Peters Show” with Stan Kann .Chicago , Blood Sweat and Tears as well as The Archie’s were a big influence on Sonny’s musical taste .
In the Seventies and early Eighties, Sonny toured and recorded with “The Spirit of St. Louis” an eight piece show group that performed inLas Vegas,Atlantic Cityalong with cities like JoplinMO, Rochester MN, andRome GA ( a suburb of Atlanta, yeah right !!Never believe those agents)
Upon returning to St. Louis from fifteen years in Minnesota where he did not pick up the horn, Sonny joined a local group called “Trilogy” then in 1997 Hooked up with “The King of Hearts Rock n Roll Show” before taking his place in the horn section ( which has the most fun in the band ) of Butch Wax and The Hollywoods.
Sonny has been blessed over the years to share the stage with performers like Dr. John , Rick Nelson, Blues Legend Albert King, Dr. JBZ and his Howlarious Hypnosis ,Michael McDonald, Billy Peek and local St. Louis icon Lunch Meat Man! But the thrill of Sonny’s musical career is meeting and performing with Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Johnnie Johnson…. He is the reason we all play!! Whether at the Shelton Concert Hall or St.Louis Cardinal home opener, St. Louis Rams rallies or playing at Johnnie’s wake alongside Bob Weir , The Kentucky Headhunters, and Peanuts Whaylam it was a true honor to be associated with the Father of Rock ‘n Roll.
Sonny’s gear used for Butchwax and theHollywoods
1962 Selmer Tenor Sax Paris Model with a modified Bobby Dukoff #8 Metal Mouthpiece
1961 Selmer Alto SaxParisModel with low A key Bobby Dukoff #8 Metal Mouthpiece. Both supported by the Boots Randolph signature sax strap.
Sonny’s Favorite Songs Are:
|September||Earth Wind and Fire|
|My Old School||Steely Dan|
|My Three Sons||Fred Mac Murray|
|You’re Still a Young Man||Tower of Power|
|Sittin’ in a World of Snow||Wayne Cochran|
|Smoke from a Distant Fire||Sanford Townsend Band|
|So Very Hard To Go||Tower of Power|
|Ain’t Gonna Bump No Mo with No Big Fat||Joe Tex|
|Try a Little Tenderness||Temptations|
|I Wish it would Rain|