Sonny Caulfield

The best musician I have ever played with died this morning. Not just any musician that I've played with...but the one who has deeply seeded intertwined responsibility for creating the majority of my true practical and functioning musicianship.

If you've never heard of him...I encourage you to read his story

If you know him, then you know what an immense loss this is.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

The only thing I can offer is an example of what he did for me.  I was 17 when I played my first gig with Sonny was at the Delta hotel in the restaurant - arguably Sonny's "home" since 1986.  Dave Shephard, percussion professor at UPEI, recommended me as a replacement bassist for one gig.  He said, wear a tux, bow-tie, bring your upright bass.  I showed up early, setup beside the piano and then Sonny walked up...I can't remember what he said to me but I knew this guy was the real deal.  My only question for him was..."so, do you have charts for the songs you play?"

Sonny laughed a loud laugh....sat down at the piano...and started playing....

No!! You either can play along or get the hell out.

and there started my visual relationship with Sonny's left hand...luckily I had been learning to play the piano in my first year at first I clumsily tried to mimic every note he played...the laws of space and time made this almost impossible...once he played a note it already brain was too slow to keep an almost echo-like fashion I stumbled upon the notes he played a few fractions of seconds AFTER he played music...this means I sounded terrible. 

Now I'd love to tell you Sonny patted me on the back and said..."good job...."

he didn't....he turned around after the first song and said "you sound terrible..."  ...but....any other person would just get frustrated and bear then next several hours, say "thanks", or not, and never hire me again...but not Sonny...he said "you sound terrible...." and then went on to say something to the effect "use your ears....listen to me..listen to where the music is going and you'll get there..."   so I did....I worked hard....I tried....I responded....I got a bit better...and Sonny at the end of the night said to Dave with me standing there ..." This kid is good....he just needs time with me...."

and that's what he gave me....what was supposed to be a single gig turned into every saturday night at the Delta for the next few months...and Sonny worked me hard...he'd stop after songs and teach me...."don't always play the root....don't always play what my left hand is playing...use your ears...anticpate the chord structure..."

He never said "here's a song list..go learn these songs..." that was a useless teaching tool....he taught me about MUSIC...and how to live it....

I'll never forget one gig where I finally "got it"....I stopped looking at his left hand...I only listenened....and rather than Sonny carrying the weight of the bottom end of the song he was drifting more and more up the register so I could truly be the bassist...I was grooving...I was soaring...I got cocky, my finger slipped what ended up happening was that I "SPROINGED" my low E string in a low flautulating "FWLOP" while he was soloing and it just happened to be the right note at the right time and Sonny looked at me yelped an excited "YEAH!!!"  .....

it was magic.....a student getting the best kind of appreciation from his teacher...

it was also hilarious that it was an accident...and he never this day and forever when I'm playing jazz and walking a bassline under someone's solo once in a while I'll purposefully land a thunderous low E BOOWWWMMM...and I'll think of Sonny...and think of how thankful I am for knowing him...and how thankful I am for all the education he selflessly gave to me over the last 15 years...

My last gig with Sonny was in November 2010  when he delighted a room full of people at the Delta with Christmas carols Sonny style....he always played FOR people...considering what they would want "'s almost December...I think they'd want some Christmas music, don't you?" ...and away we went on another music adventure with Sonny.

I will miss those adventures deeply. 

There is no other person/musician like Sonny.


  1. thank you, Deryl. My father loved you,and loved your playing.

    1. this is a tad late in replying... but you are most welcome. I loved playing with your father and miss it very very much.


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