Lonnie Holley is an American sculptor and musician born in 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama. He was the 7th of 27 children and was traded for a bottle of whiskey when he was four and travelled with a circus troupe.

His interest in music and art began when he carved the tombstones out of sandstone for his sister’s two children, who had died in a house fire. His family could not afford regular tombstones so Lonnie carved some out of waste material discarded by a foundry nearby to his sister’s house. His sandstone carvings earned him the name The Sand Man and since then these works have been shown in American high art and folk art museums across the USA, including the Whitehouse Rose Garden.

Despite recording some tapes at home since the 1980s Lonnie’s first music release came much later than his success with his physical art, in 2012 he released his first record after beginning the first studio recordings of his work in 2006, facilitated by Matt Arnett who in 2010 set up a performance with Lonnie Holley at his home. The owner of record label Dust-To-Digital was in attendance and this resulted in Lonnie signing his first record deal. Since then his albums have featured on many end-of-year best record lists and he has embarked on several tours across the USA and Europe.

Lonnie Holley’s first two albums were largely solo efforts yet the third, MITH, featured expanded instrumentation facilitated by musicians Dave Nelson, Shahzad Ismaily and Laraaji, a fellow cosmic traveler. Holley’s style can be characterized by a strong improvisational element and a jazz sensibility, often covering topics such as the lived black experience and civil rights in the USA

About this Contributor

Given name
Family name
Birth date
Contributor type
Minutes created
GRC4 #37

Minutes by Lonnie Holley