Sonny Greenwich was born Herbert Lawrence Greenidge in Hamilton, Ontario, on New Year's Day in 1936. His father, Herb, was a pianist in the Art Tatum style. Sonny's early interests were art and boxing, and he entertained both as potential careers, and it was not until he reached his late teens that he took up the guitar that his father had brought back from Germany after service during the war. The younger Greenidge learned the few chords that his father knew, and that stands as the extent of his instruction in music. To this day, he cannot read music. (For more in depth details on his career we suggest you read Mark Miller's "Jazz in Canada - Fourteen Lives" - University of Toronto Press).
In Sonny's early 20's he worked in r&b bands, Toronto bars, and jazz clubs. A meeting with John Coltrane in Buffalo, New York, according to Gene Lees, reinforced his spiritual leanings, which strongly influenced his style. He toured with John Handy 1966-7, briefly with Hank Mobley, then in 1968 led a group in New York City which included Jimmy Garrison and Jack DeJohnette, working very briefly (one set), with Miles Davis' band at the Colonial Tavern in Toronto in December 1969 (Miles wanted Sonny to join the band in New York, but this never came to fruition) he recorded with a group co-led with Don Thompson "Love Song for a Virgo Lady" and "The Old Man and the Child", originally on the CBC label and then on Sackville. He has lived just outside of Montreal since the late 60's, semi retired from music, due to ill health, occasionally coming out for a concert or club appearance, and recording on his own Kleo label, usually with his son Sonny, Jr, who also plays guitar.
Highly regarded by many musicians, including Elvin Jones and Gary Burton, both of whom offered him jobs at one time.
Some of Sonny's early recorded work can be found on albums by: John Handy Sextet "Spirituals to Swing" - Columbia, Hank Mobley "Third Season" - Blue Note, Moe Koffman "Solar Explorations" - GRT.