Texas is something Sonny Burgess knows an awful lot about. A native Texan born and raised, this performer bleeds lonestar. When his album kicks off with a rocking drum intro, followed by steel guitar and twin fiddles and the lyrics, “When in Texas, do as the Texans do/Think long neck beers, a rodeo/Bob Wills and bar-be-cue," you’ll know immediately, Sonny sings with passion, pride and personal experience.
Produced by Kerry Kurt Phillips and Ed Blount, Sonny’s debut record, WHEN IN TEXAS, is reminiscent of one of Sonny’s primary influences, the great Bob Wills. With eight gold and thirteen platinum albums to his credit, Phillips was able to preserve Sonny’s traditional country sound throughout the entire project.
Though Sonny has been performing since his childhood, his original career ambition was to become a professional baseball player. Attending Trinity University on a baseball scholarship, Sonny concentrated diligently on his studies. He majored in physical education and minored in biology. On the diamond, he was a pitcher and third baseman. His aptitude in baseball was impressive enough to garner attention from the AA league. After earning his degree, Sonny played professionally for nearly two years with the San Antonio Dodgers.
All the while, Sonny continued playing music in his spare time. He never gave up his passion and lifelong hobby. Music had become an important element in connecting his entire family. A self-taught guitarist, young Sonny learned how to play chords merely from watching his Uncle Leon at his Grandma’s house. Every Sunday, the Burgess family gathered and played music together on Grandmom’s front porch. Aunt Janell and little Sonny sang harmony while Uncle Truman played the mandolin. Uncle Leon participated as a key player in the familial performance; he played guitar while an eager-to-learn Sonny watched his uncle intently, making mental notes. These impromptu weekly sessions embedded in Sonny a love for the traditional sounds of country music.
Sonny enjoyed playing with other youngsters who shared his musical interest, and as a second grader, he became a member of his first band, the Miniatures. The prodigy of the group, Sonny was the youngest; the remaining band members were sixth graders. The group was made up of a guitar player, a drummer and two harmony vocalists who backed Sonny as the band’s lead singer. In high school, he joined the band, the Rhythmaires, playing lead guitar, acoustic guitar and fiddle. Honing his skills as a musician and vocalist, Sonny’s love for the stage and country music grew.
In his early 20’s, Sonny made the decision professional baseball was not the career endeavor meant for him. Beginning a journey of varied, and seemingly random jobs, he worked as a substitute teacher, an electrician, a railroad worker and also installed swimming pools. He never stopped playing his music, picking up an occasional job or sitting in with bands that performed at the local clubs.
As time passed, Sonny began to feel a strong interpersonal tug toward finding a way to play more often on his own. He began performing in Texas venues and surrounding states, becoming a favorite at the Wildhorse Saloon (Nashville) and Billy Bob’s (Ft. Worth). Sonny’s dream of being a full-time professional musician quickly became a reality as he achieved his goals along the way.
Today, Sonny delivers a performance few people can get enough of—traditional country music. He has made his debut appearance on the Grand Ole Opry; he continues to tour, playing well over twenty dates per year; and he and his family still enjoy family gatherings on Grandmom’s porch in Texas where his sound originated and his heart remains.