There are some blues artists whose names are inextricably linked and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee are two of those. As a blues duo they were a major influence on the blues and folk music scene playing the Piedmont blues, a style lighter than the rough edged blues from Mississippi.

Sonny Terry was born Saunders Terrell in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1911. He was taught to play harmonica by his father who was a farmer and part time musician, playing folk harmonica. When Terry was five years old he lost his sight in one eye and tragically his second eye was injured at age sixteen, leaving Sonny virtually blind. Music was the only career open to him and he began playing the streets locally and he also travelled around the Carolina's with medicine shows. He eventually met up with  Blind Boy Fuller who persuaded him to move to Durham, North Carolina. He began recording with Blind Boy and quickly became an established part of the blues scene in Durham. He performed at the Carnegie Hall in 1938 as part of the 'From Spirituals to Swing' concert, and he recorded in his own right in 1940.

Brownie McGhee was born Walter Brown McGhee in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1915. His family were all very musical and his father was a regular member of several local string bands. He was also influenced by his mother, who was particularly fond of the music of Bessie Smith and Lonnie Johnson. His fathers older brother was also a member of string bands and he gave a young Brownie his first lessons in the blues. Brownie McGhee was barely a teenager when he contracted poliomyelitis and he was confined to bed for many months, the illness leaving him disabled. However he put his time to good use, spending most of his time bed practising the guitar. Fortunately an operation increased his mobility and allowed him to take up music professionally. He played the south east States and when he reached North Carolina he met Blind Boy Fuller and his manager, J.B. Long, and they helped McGhee make his first recordings. He first recorded for Columbia Records in 1940, and when Blind Boy Fuller died in 1941, Brownie McGhee's records were issued under the name Blind Boy Fuller 2.

On his third recording session, for Okeh, Brownie played with Sonny Terry and their long-standing partnership, which would last for over thirty years, was formed. They moved to New York in 1942 where they became an important part of the folk scene there, playing with legends Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Leadbelly. Eventually McGhee opened his own blues school in Harlem, where he taught blues guitar. Both Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee continued to record solo as well as together and both appeared in theatre productions. The folk boom of the early 1960's increased their popularity them a whole new audience. They recorded extensively for a variety of labels including Folkways and  Fantasy and toured extensively in the USA, Canada and Europe, becoming regular top liners at folk festivals and appearing on television.

Their partnership finally ended, reportedly acrimoniously, in the mid 1970's and they went their separate ways. Sonny Terry continued to play and he also published a book, The Harp Styles of Sonny Terry, in 1975. In 1984 he recorded an album with Johnny Winter for Alligator Records called Whoopin'. McGhee also carried on performing but his schedule became much reduced. Sonny Terry died in 1986 in New York and by this time McGhee had virtually retired. He made a final appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival before his death in Oakland, California in 1996.