b. Sidney Selby, 28 July 1931, Hyde County, North Carolina, USA. Selby sang in church as a child and in his mid-teens went with his mother to live in New York City. He was surrounded by music, partly through an aunt who worked at a US army camp where touring swing bands and bop musicians appeared. In the 60s, playing guitar and singing, he recorded a number of singles and toured with artists such as Ben E. King and the Isley Brothers, but despite gaining recognition from his peers it was not until he went to Europe that he began to attract an admiring audience. This prompted him to stay there and for some years he has been resident in Freiburg, Germany. Selby played as a solo act and also worked with visiting artists, such as Katie Webster and he was with her during a gig in Freiburg when she suffered a stroke that effectively ended her career.
In addition to guitar, Selby also plays harmonica and his repertoire ranges through old time and contemporary blues with more than a hint of soul. Musicians who backed him on live gigs and on record in the late 90s and early 00s have included guitarists Alvin Lee and Hans McMiniman and pianist Joe Fuller. In his later years, Selby’s guitar playing has been hampered by the onset of arthritis but he still sings and played the blues harp with verve and undimmed enthusiasm. His 1995 recording Message To Man benefited from the assistance of arranger Calvin Owens, best known for his work with B.B. King. Reportedly, Selby’s nickname comes through neither his playing nor his musical temperament but as a result of his using his guitar to dissuade a customer in a club from mistreating a woman.