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Sonny Treadway Interview

Sonny Treadway was born and raised in Michigan and grew up playing steel guitar with Bishop Ron Hall and Calvin Cooke under the guidance of “Uncle” Felton Williams.  As a young man, he traveled throughout much of the United States with Church of the Living God Chief Overseer Bishop Mattie Jewell to play for worship services, assemblies and revivals, usually accompanying steel guitarist Bishop Lorenzo Harrison on standard (fretted) guitar.  He ultimately settled in Deerfield Beach, Florida, living in a home owned by the church adjacent to the church his wife, Bishop Eunice Treadway, pastored.  He made this steel guitar using found wood for the body, a tuner assembly from a Sho-Bud pedal-steel guitar and Fender pickups.  The instrument closely resembled one Felton Williams had made several years earlier.  Although strongly influenced by Bishop Lorenzo Harrison, Sonny Treadway developed his own distinctive steel guitar style.  He also played the saxophone.  Bishop Eunice Treadway died in 2009, Sonny Treadway in 2013.

– Robert L. Stone

The Robert Stone Sacred Steel Archive:
Sonny Treadway Interview

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  • The Robert Stone Sacred Steel Archive: Sonny Treadway Interview 00:00
Interviewee: Sonny Treadway
Interviewer: Robert Stone
Date: 12/18/1993
Location: Deerfield Beach, FL
Language: English

For the archive overview:
The Robert Stone Sacred Steel Archive

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission. info@arhoolie.org

Sonny Treadway Interview Transcript:

Robert Stone:

This is Bob Stone for Florida Folklife Programs. I’m at the home of Sonny Treadway, gospel steel guitar player, at Deerfield Beach, Florida. It’s December 18th, 1993. You play an eight-string Fender most of the time?

Sonny Treadway:

I’ve got a 10-string Sho-Bud too, but it’s not the matter of strings. It’s just playing, but I got an eight-string I play most of the time.

Robert Stone:

Maybe hold this over here.

Michael Stapleton:

Sure.

Sonny Treadway:

Or right off the six.

Robert Stone:

Is there any tuning you use more than others?

Sonny Treadway:

Like I said, like I talked to you on the phone, I can just turn a string and sometime I had just something off and it would just come out with something in it. But I have a certain tuning and a couple of tuning I tune to play in, but I even turn while I’m playing sometimes, just to show out and go to doing things, having fun. Yeah.

Robert Stone:

I haven’t heard, except for a little bit that Glenn Lee played for me over the phone, I haven’t been to a church service of the Jewell Dominion yet. Glenn tried to explain to me over the phone some of the basic differences. A lot of your music is a little slower.

Sonny Treadway:

We got a more of a like on the beat. They’re faster than we are. However you sing, we try to keep it on that same time, and as the song goes, we don’t try to speed it up or slow it down. They get a little faster and faster and faster.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, so you keep a more steady …

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, so if somebody wants to dance with the music they can, or whatever.

Robert Stone:

It mostly, it follows a three-chord progression, usually.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. It’s similar to their style, but they’re beginning to change over to ours now. They like our style, because we got the smooth flow, just smooth.

Robert Stone:

How about hymns? Do you play hymns?

Sonny Treadway:

I play everything, solos, hymns. In fact, during the services, I like to play songs, meditating songs or something, something slow and soft. Something touchy.

Robert Stone:

You play by what you feel.

Sonny Treadway:

Right. Sort of a feeling that I have. It’s like spiritually feeling. It just guides me through. Sometime I listen at my tags when I get through playing at the service. I don’t believe I’d done certain things, but I hear it on the tape. “Did I do that?” It’s just something that comes through. I really don’t hear it while I’m playing it, for real, but when I come home and sometime I pop the tape in and I listen at it and then I’ll push replay over again. I said, “Did I do that? I don’t remember it.” It happens just like that all the time. I compose a lot of my own stuff. We started out real young playing, anyways.

Robert Stone:

How young were you?

Sonny Treadway:

I must have started off when I was crawling around the house, because I was always knocking and beating on stuff, my mom told me. They’d holler at me all the time, always humming and knocking. About five years old, I started playing the drums, and I just asked for a guitar, begged for a guitar at that age. They wouldn’t get it. Finally, I think my mom bought me one and when the truck brought it out, it came from Sears. One of those Elvis Presley’s acoustic. I saw it in the paper, and it only cost $25, and she finally said, “Well, I’ll get that guitar.” They got tired of me hollering and crying for a guitar.

Sonny Treadway:

When the truck drove up in front of the house, I ran out and the guy on the truck said, “It must be yours.” I said, “It sure is.” Grabbed it out of his hand and ran in the house. It had a book and a pick in it, a flat pick. I tuned it, just like you go to school, learned how to tune it. I just picked it up, tuned it, in E, and started playing it. My father was in the front of the house. He came out. The truck driver, my mom, my sister, everybody came in the living room and watched me. I started playing it just like that. No lessons.

Robert Stone:

How old were you?

Sonny Treadway:

Five. No lessons, no nothing. They backed up and they looked at me. My father said, “If I knew he was going to do that, I would have bought it.” It was a shock to the family. The church people didn’t know nothing about it see yet, so he said, “Well, good as you’re playing, I’m going to take you to church.” I said, “No,” because I was shamed. Being a kid, you’re shamed and bashful. I said, “No way, I’m not playing at no church.” He said, “If I knew that he was going to play that good, I’d have bought the guitar.” He was a minister too. My father was a preacher. When he was in the pulpit one Sunday morning, he made me take it to church, and he kept making eyes at me like, “Go out there and get that guitar.”

Sonny Treadway:

I said, “No.” I shake my head, “No.” He got up, came back to the pew, told me, “Get out there and get that guitar.” He sounded like he would whip me if I didn’t, so I went out the door and got it and I was scared to come back in because everybody’s going to be looking. Sure enough, when I opened that door, everybody in that church just looked back. “What are you doing with a guitar?” Nobody knew about it. Just followed me all up there. I’m shaking. I get to the pulpit, sit down, I’m still shaking, trembling. Everybody’s just quiet, watching me and still talking. “What is that boy doing? Well, who taught him how to play?” Nobody knew it.

Sonny Treadway:

When they started the first hymn, I started playing. They started shouting. Everybody in the church is dancing and hollering, and we had a good service that morning, and after service, everybody just approached me and my dad and just asked him questions. “Who taught him?” My father said, “Nobody. He picked the guitar up, tuned it himself and started playing it.” That was just lead guitar, Spanish picking. Didn’t know about a steel guitar. The next move I had a bottle in my pocket and I’d lay the guitar across my lap and started playing with a bottle, like steel stuff, and everybody just was amazed. The preacher and my pastor, he jumped up and he said that boy has got a miracle. That’s a miracle.

Sonny Treadway:

That was a blessing, a gift, and it happened just like that. Nobody taught me. I went to a music school and the teacher told me that I’d be crazy to learn how to read music. As good as I played by ear, they say, so I say, “Well, thank you.” They gave me a guitar. I sit there and play, and he said, “I can’t teach you.” He said, “It’d be stupid for me to let you waste your money just to teach you how to play.” He said, “Good as you play by ear, I wouldn’t teach you one lesson.” I said, “I still want to try it.” He said, “Okay, you’ll just be wasting your money.” He gave me one lesson and I saw what he was talking about. It was kind of bored, because I already knew the stuff he was teaching me. Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Where was this? Where were you born?

Sonny Treadway:

In Detroit, Michigan.

Robert Stone:

In Detroit. Was your dad … You said he was a preacher. Was he in the House of God?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, same church.

Robert Stone:

House of God in the Jewell Dominion.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Now, in the Jewell Dominion, do you say the House of God, which is the church of the living God and-

Sonny Treadway:

Pillar and the ground of the truth, which he purchased with his own blood.

Robert Stone:

Okay, so that’s the difference, that lasts phrase.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

I’m just starting to learn all. Then there’s also the Lewis Dominion.

Sonny Treadway:

Oh, yeah. It’s quite a few of them. They’re all family people anyway, so they split off from each other, and that’s what caused the split to happen.

Robert Stone:

Yeah. I guess they had quite a court battle in all that.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, and struggled through court for years.

Robert Stone:

Never did really resolve it.

Sonny Treadway:

Not really, it just died out and made a little settlement amongst each other, and they just went their ways. But they’re getting back, community back together. Better now.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, it appears that way. Yeah, Now, is the House of God pretty big in Detroit?

Sonny Treadway:

Well, the headquarters is in Indianapolis, Indiana, and we’re branched all over different states, local churches.

Robert Stone:

For the Jewell Dominion…?

Sonny Treadway:

This is a local here, in Deerfield.

Robert Stone:

Right. Now, for the Keith Dominion, their headquarters is in Nashville.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, they’re still in Nashville. See, we left Nashville. I was traveling with the overseer then, when I had to move from there.

Robert Stone:

Bishop Harris?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, Bishop Harrison and Bishop Jewell.

Robert Stone:

Bishop Harrison and Bishop Jewell. Was Bishop Jewell a musician?

Sonny Treadway:

No, she was the leader. Bishop Harrison was the musician. He played steel.

Robert Stone:

That was Glenn Lee’s uncle, was it?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

You and Glenn are cousins or something?

Sonny Treadway:

Distant.

Robert Stone:

Distant cousins.

Sonny Treadway:

One of my aunts married in the family.

Robert Stone:

What was your father’s name?

Sonny Treadway:

Treadway Eston.

Robert Stone:

Treadway Eston.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. Same as my name. Everybody calls me Sonny. That’s my nickname. My real name is Eston.

Robert Stone:

It’s Treadway?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, Treadway.

Robert Stone:

Okay. I thought it was Trailway.

Sonny Treadway:

But I prefer Sonny, because nobody knows me by Eston, because I never used that name. Some people pronounce it wrong, Easton, so I just prefer not to … Planning on changing it pretty soon anyway, to Sonny. Since all my parents died now, I’m just change it to my nickname, Sonny. I’ve been playing ever since I was a little tiny fellow, music.

Robert Stone:

When did you get your first steel?

Sonny Treadway:

Oh, I don’t remember. I had so many of them. I think my first one was a Bronson. Have you ever heard of that one?

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Mike Stapleton:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

That was my first one, lap.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Sonny Treadway:

Back in the ’50s. Back in there, they didn’t have no legs, and I could play the lap steel. Slide and you get to playing, they almost slide off your legs. You try to get them back. I’m so tall. Certain chairs, I can’t sit in a low chair. I have to have a high chair to play in, because I’m so tall and my legs are long and stuff. I use that one there when I go to church. It’s a little higher, because I can’t sit in those low chairs. It seemed like when the legs are all the way down, they hit me. The guitar rests right on my legs and I can’t take that. Turn my legs sideways, it’s uncomfortable.

Robert Stone:

You bought this Fender eight in what, 1968? Is that what what you-?

Sonny Treadway:

When I was in the service, I was in Colorado Springs in ’69, I bought it.

Robert Stone:

That was Vietnam era?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. Right after Nam, I came back and did five months in Fort Carson, Colorado. I found a music store up there and I bought it.

Robert Stone:

You buy it new?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh (affirmative). Brand new.

Sonny Treadway:

About $200. Good old days.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

And Sho-Bud, I bought that, it was about $800-and-something. That was the good old days. They done went up to … They’re in business now, but-

Robert Stone:

Sho-Bud now.

Sonny Treadway:

It was about $800 for that three-pedal, 10-stringer. I bought it for $800 new.

Robert Stone:

Do you use the regular Nashville tuning on it?

Sonny Treadway:

I use my own tuning. I play it upstairs where they make them at, and them boys up there could play now.

Robert Stone:

Up in Nashville?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. Where they made the Sho-Bud`, I went upstairs where they made it at and played on a few guitars, and they couldn’t even play in my tuning. They say, “I don’t see how you do it.” When they tune it their way, I could hit little stuff in it. But see, I’m used to my way of playing, but they couldn’t do nothing with my tuning. Not a thing. They were amazed at it. “How do you play? How do you get all that sound out of that tuning? I can’t do nothing with it.” They could play them guitars.

Robert Stone:

Oh, yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

Seriously, they can go.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

I was enthused. It got something nobody else ain’t got.

Robert Stone:

Tomorrow, are you going to play both those guitars, or probably just your eight?

Sonny Treadway:

I just play straight. I quit using … I used to use those echo boxes, all that, but I do everything with my hand now. Use a knob.

Robert Stone:

You don’t use a volume pedal? Just use the knob.

Sonny Treadway:

No, I just use the knobs and technique in my hand. It sounds like wah-wah pedals and all that going on. It does the same thing, because you use the tone control, you wiggle it. The old fashioned way, I play it.

Robert Stone:

Right. Yeah. It’s the old … I know some people in the Keith Dominion call it a Hawaiian guitar, and that’s basically what the instrument is, and although the music comes out, sounding different, there’s a lot about the approach that’s the same. Do you use a Stevens bar or a round bar?

Sonny Treadway:

I use the old regular Stevens.

Robert Stone:

Stevens, yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

I don’t like the round. It gets sweaty and my hand slips out, plus it’s heavy. I don’t know why they made it so heavy. The one I got, it came with the Sho-Bud, it’s heavy.

Robert Stone:

Oh, the big ones, yeah. Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

I just use the old Steven. They went up to about what, $18 on it.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Mike Stapleton:

Yeah. They weren’t making them for a while.

Sonny Treadway:

I know. You just about sweat all the coating off of it from holding it.

Robert Stone:

You used picks on your fingers.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, I use just first finger and thumb pick. Sometime I will play with my naked finger with it according to what I’m doing.

Robert Stone:

All right. Do you play a lot of single notes?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. Chords, notes, slurs, all kinds of stuff. Screams, bass. Like I tell you, we don’t need a bass. I’m through the bass, through high notes, screaming and all kinds of things going on.

Robert Stone:

And your occupation now?

Sonny Treadway:

Carpenter.

Robert Stone:

Carpenter. You never smash your hands?

Speaker 5:

So far, he’s protecting them.

Sonny Treadway:

I wouldn’t want them to get smashed either.

Robert Stone:

No, that’s what I was meaning.

Sonny Treadway:

Well, I did break my arm twice, same spot, but you can’t tell it. This one. Cut the nerves up, but I got healed tremendously well.

Robert Stone:

On the job?

Sonny Treadway:

No, this is another job, not carpenter work. Put that blessed oil on there and prayed a lot, and he gave me my feelings back and everything.

Robert Stone:

All right.

Sonny Treadway:

They say I was playing faster than when before I broke it. I think my church thought I was going to slow down. They say, “Man, you’re really playing that guitar now.”

Mike Stapleton:

Are you still playing Spanish guitar in church?

Sonny Treadway:

I still … I don’t give it up. I still play it. I play drums, blowing harmonica, the saxophone and everything. Violin.

Mike Stapleton:

You play violin too?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, I got one in the closet in there. Sweet on it.

Robert Stone:

We both play the fiddle.

Sonny Treadway:

Oh yeah?

Mike Stapleton:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sonny Treadway:

I wish I could be around you all, because I want to hear it.

Speaker 4:

You get to check this out.

Sonny Treadway:

I hear you all hook up, so I can hear. I like to hear people too and learn stuff from them.

Robert Stone:

Yeah. Well we could do that sometime.

Mike Stapleton:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Matter of fact, he’s got about four fiddles out in the truck.

Sonny Treadway:

Oh, yeah?

Robert Stone:

Might get one out and play a little.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Okay. This is the one right here, that if there’s any restrictions you’d like to put on anything that goes in the archive, you can. Normally, people don’t. It’s for educational use and for archival use, not for profit, all that. Sign right there, because this information, it just allows us to take pictures and make recordings, whatever. That’s another thing. Being a state agency, we’re not in this to make money. We’re in it to bring honor to your music and your tradition, and to preserve it for you and for future generations and people in your church. Thank you. Well, a lot of people were pretty excited about this particular project.

Robert Stone:

Clearly, I know you’re in the Jewell Dominion, but Bishop Elliott from the Keith Dominion is behind this 100%. He wrote us a nice letter of support to get the grant and everything. We have a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Folk Arts division for this project. That’s where we get some assistance. We got a real tight budget, but I think we got enough to do a good job. Matter of fact, I’m going to try to see if I can get … There’s a division of the Smithsonian Institution that’s interested in this music. I’m going to see if there might be a way to get them to get involved with this project.

Robert Stone:

It could well turn out to be a CD instead of a tape, or maybe in addition to the tape. Once we get the first batch run, they might be able to pick up. What’s nice about that too, is that they have a good distribution network, so they can get it out. We have a lady named Sherry Dupree, a Black woman, who’s written I think, three books about gospel music. I forgot, but I would have brought it with me. She’s got a biographical dictionary, and she would probably be interested in putting you in there. She’s interviewed Aubrey Ghent and his father, Andrew Nelson, and I’m sure she’ll be talking to Glenn Lee and I’ll recommend that she talk to you.

Robert Stone:

When the next revision of that book comes out, it’s a comprehensive compilation of African-American gospel people, both musicians and preachers and church leaders and all that. She’s on this project helping us. She’s going to work on the booklet. She’ll be contributing as far as the history of the church, the House of God church and I’ll be … She’ll be contributing more from the church aspect and I’ll contribute more from the musical aspect, because that’s my area. Well, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Going to be a good time, and we appreciate you letting us take an opportunity to document some of this stuff, and I think it will go real well. I think you’ll be pleased too. We do good work. We like to do a good job.

Sonny Treadway:

How do I know? I haven’t heard nothing.

Robert Stone:

Actually, here’s a little sample. Sonny, a question just occurred to me. In the Keith dominion, they talk about Willie Eason being one of the earliest players. Is there anybody like that in the Jewell Dominion, some guys who were early steel guitar players that have been influential? Harrison?

Sonny Treadway:

Harrison’s always …

Robert Stone:

How old of a guy was he?

Sonny Treadway:

In his 60’s. He was 66 when he died, I think.

Robert Stone:

He died just in the last few years?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

About how long ago?

Sonny Treadway:

About seven, eight years ago.

Robert Stone:

Okay, so he would be that same generation as Willie Eason and those guys.

Sonny Treadway:

Probably.

Robert Stone:

I understand he was the first pedal steel player, is that right, in gospel?

Sonny Treadway:

No, he was just straight.

Robert Stone:

Oh, he didn’t play a pedal steel?

Sonny Treadway:

No, just played straight.

Robert Stone:

Is there anybody else that goes way back, especially here in Florida?

Sonny Treadway:

Not to my knowledge.

Robert Stone:

Do you know how many churches in the Jewell Dominion there are in Florida.

Sonny Treadway:

It’s got about, one, two … I think there’s about five. Some on the West Coast.

Robert Stone:

Over around Sarasota?

Sonny Treadway:

Fort Miles and St. Petersburg. Where else?

Robert Stone:

How about up North? Is there any down on Callar or Palatka, or how about The Panhandle?

Sonny Treadway:

No. Gainesville, Lake City used to be one.

Robert Stone:

There’s one in Gainesville?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Jewell Dominion? Is there a steel player there, do you know? No?

Sonny Treadway:

Not to my knowledge. I know all the guys that play, but I haven’t heard … Younger folks are starting to play now, the younger kids.

Robert Stone:

Right. Are most of them playing pedal steels, the younger guys?

Sonny Treadway:

No, straight.

Robert Stone:

Straight.

Sonny Treadway:

Nobody in our dominion hardly is playing pedal steel.

Robert Stone:

Is there any young ones that are pretty good coming up?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Do you know who they are and where they are?

Sonny Treadway:

The Philadelphia Church. They scattered around.

Robert Stone:

I mean in Florida.

Sonny Treadway:

Youngsters, like young adults just starting off, most of them have been playing within the last what, 20 years, something like that, and just starting off.

Robert Stone:

You started playing steel right away when you were five?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, just played both guitars same time. I just switched from one to the other one. I never learned one, then go to the other one. I started off with both. I had a Spanish guitar. I didn’t have a steel. I tuned it like a steel guitar and play it like a steel. When I get tired, I tune it back like a Spanish and play it like a Spanish. When I get tired, tune it back. I was going back and forth, switching like that, till I was able to get one.

Robert Stone:

Did you tune it in regular standard tuning, or did you tune it to-

Sonny Treadway:

It was my own tuning.

Robert Stone:

Your own head, your own tuning.

Sonny Treadway:

I tried to play in the book tuning, like E ninth, and what is that? C?

Robert Stone:

C6.

Sonny Treadway:

Six yeah, but I prefer my own because that’s the way it was coming through me with my own tuning.

Robert Stone:

Spanish style too, did you use a different tuning?

Sonny Treadway:

Or E straight. Just straight E. C, the C natural.

Robert Stone:

The regular guitar tuning.

Sonny Treadway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I didn’t go for that vestapol style. It’s too easy. Mostly one bar chord and a lot of the guys playing that vestapol.

Robert Stone:

Steel players, you mean?

Sonny Treadway:

No, Spanish players.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

Most of the gospel groups, they just slide one finger. It’s vestapol- Just like the steel’s tuning.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Sonny Treadway:

They don’t do much work. They’re not chording. They’re not running.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Sonny Treadway:

But I started off playing both of them same time, no instruction. Nobody showed me nothing about the guitar.

Robert Stone:

How did you come up with that way of playing the bass? When you play the bass, do you play with your thumb?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. It’s just the way it came, the way it works. We call them bass tunes too, and I’d just lead on the little notes. We call them the bass tunes.

Robert Stone:

Bass tunes?

Sonny Treadway:

Uh-huh (affirmative). That’s a lot of different stuff we do on the bass.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

Well, I got hung on the bass once I was playing, I couldn’t get off. My thumb just stayed on the bass and I invented this new tune, and ever since, it just got popular. Yeah. Mostly it was just the high notes mostly playing.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Sonny Treadway:

Seemed like that bass, something about the bass, it kind of … You heard it a while ago. I saw you grinning.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Mike Stapleton:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

It makes you hear it.

Robert Stone:

Yes, I liked it. Then it sounded like you had something else you were doing in the middle, playing the melody right about in the middle of the guitar, third or fourth strings, something like that. So often steel guitars are on the top couple of strings.

Sonny Treadway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). There’s a lot of screaming in our playing. We call it the scream, like sustain, hold a note long time and let it slur or something real like somebody is hollering for real or something like that.

Robert Stone:

Is there a name for the kind of music you play when people are trying to try to get people happy, giving the spirit?

Sonny Treadway:

Mostly to me, it’s my feelings how I feel playing. It’s just a good feeling that comes over me.

Robert Stone:

We just heard some of what Aubrey did when they do the collection, the offering. Do you do something like that? Do you play that sort of-

Sonny Treadway:

We used to do the march song.

Robert Stone:

The march song?

Sonny Treadway:

Same thing he was playing there, but we call it our march. They stopped doing that. Now we got a couple songs we sing during offering time.

Robert Stone:

But is that uptempo, swing-along?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, it’s a little bit faster than that.

Robert Stone:

What are they?

Sonny Treadway:

Lord, We Give. That matches with giving to the offering. And Miracles And Blessings.

Robert Stone:

Do people sing while you’re playing it?

Sonny Treadway:

They sing it whilst …

Robert Stone:

Do you do the same thing? Does the congregation file up to the collection plate?

Sonny Treadway:

No, they don’t do that. They stopped that.

Robert Stone:

They sit and the usher comes around.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, they sit, and pass the basket. Yeah.

Robert Stone:

In the Keith Dominion, they file up.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, we used to do that. Then, when they get through raising the money, they say a prayer over the money, and then that’s the end of the offering. Yep. Every offering, that works the same way.

Robert Stone:

Do you have any hymns that are your favorites?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, I got a lot of hymns, but most people, I guess modern singing is getting popular now. I like to hear dismissal songs and stuff, people getting away from the old way. We just dismiss them without singing, like all of them. Yeah. We have them though in the church. People just don’t sing them like they used to.

Robert Stone:

Things are changing.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. Even in the church, but I love them. I like to play them old hymns and stuff like … Yeah.

Robert Stone:

All right, well.

Mike Stapleton:

You guys have your own kids, younger people coming through you for lessons and stuff?

Sonny Treadway:

Well, they don’t come, but they take advice from me. When they be messing up, I’m on them when they play with me up there, because they know how strict I am about what I hear. You can throw me off if you hit the wrong note or wrong chord, and I’d look at them and make a frown. I help them like that. It’s like chastising them, so they’ll play better.

Mike Stapleton:

Playing steel too?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, anything. If I hear them, if I’m not even playing sometime, I’ll look at them. “Don’t do that.” I have to serve as that to them. “I heard you did a wrong chord there.” Just something to help them out.

Robert Stone:

You’d been in Deerfield about 30 years?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Right here?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. This is the month I’ve been here 30 years, right here. Christmas. I think it’s just after Christmas or right at Christmas, I’ll be here 30 years.

Robert Stone:

Was this church always next door?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

You were pretty young man when you came down here.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, I think about 20-something.

Robert Stone:

Did you come with your folks?

Sonny Treadway:

No.

Robert Stone:

Did your dad ever live in Florida?

Sonny Treadway:

No, he never did leave Michigan. He was born in Mississippi and he went to Michigan before I was born. That’s where he died, 93 years old.

Robert Stone:

Was he a musician at all?

Sonny Treadway:

He played on the drums a little bit. Yeah. But he didn’t play no horns or no string instruments or nothing. That’s probably why he didn’t want to buy me that guitar. I mean, I wore them. Every day, I’d ask for a guitar. Being so young, I guess they thought I was just like any other kid wanting something that wasn’t serious, but I was really serious. It was there. By the time I got it in my hand, I just started playing it, so that had to be a gift. They went in the shock and that was it.

Robert Stone:

When’s the first time you recorded yourself playing?

Sonny Treadway:

When tape recorders came out. When I first started playing, they weren’t popular, around, so I missed a lot of good stuff back then.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. What’s that camera? The Brownie camera was popular back then.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, I remember those. Do you travel some out to play? Get out?

Sonny Treadway:

I stopped. I was going to the headquarters, Badin, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tupelo. I slacked off, but the last three or four years I haven’t went.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

This is what they gave me here from the headquarters.

Robert Stone:

All right. In the Jewell Dominion, it’s The Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground are the truth, which he purchased with his own blood.

Sonny Treadway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert Stone:

The chief overseer is Bishop N.A. Manning?

Sonny Treadway:

Right. Bishop Jewell died.

Robert Stone:

Where is Bishop Manning?

Sonny Treadway:

She’s in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Robert Stone:

It’s a woman in Indianapolis.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah. That’s the headquarters. She lives up there. It’s Bishop Harrison’s daughter.

Robert Stone:

Oh, it is.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

I see. His name was Lorenzo?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, Lorenzo Harrison.

Robert Stone:

Lorenzo Harrison. Right. That’s really nice. Well, Mike …

Sonny Treadway:

He was a great guitar player.

Robert Stone:

He was?

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah, he was good.

Robert Stone:

I wonder if Glenn’s got any of his music or anything.

Sonny Treadway:

I’m not sure. I got some of it.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Sonny Treadway:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, that’s right. You told me.

Sonny Treadway:

I got some of me and him in there. I got a big kit.

 

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