Son Seals was born in 1942 in Osceola, Arkansas where his father, Jim “Son” Seals, owned a small club. He began performing professionally by the age of 13, first as a drummer and later as a guitarist. In 1959, he formed his own band which performed locally and he also toured with Albert King.
In 1971, he moved to Chicago. His career took off after he was discovered by Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records at the Flamingo Club in Chicago’s South Side. His debut, Son Seals, was released in 1973. The album included “Your Love Is Like a Cancer” and “Hot Sauce”. Seals followed up with 1976’s Midnight Son and 1978’s Live and Burning. He continued releasing albums throughout the next two decades. He received the W.C. Handy Award, an honor for best blues recording of the year, in 1985, 1987, and 2001.
Author Andrew Vachss was a friend of Seals, and used his influence to promote Seals’ music. Vachss gave Seals several cameo appearances in his novels and co-wrote songs with him for his 2000 album, Lettin’ Go. Vachss dedicated the novel Mask Market to Seals’ memory.
In 2002, he featured on the Bo Diddley tribute album Hey Bo Diddley – A Tribute!, performing the song “My Story” (aka “Story of Bo Diddley”).
Seals had a number of problems in his life. He survived all but one of his 14 siblings; and he was shot twice in the face by his ex-wife, which required extensive surgeries. Also, one of his legs was amputated, due to complications from diabetes. He lost belongings in a fire that destroyed his home while he was away performing live, and several of his prize guitars were stolen from his home.
The band Phish performed Seal’s song “Funky Bitch” throughout their career, and brought him on stage on multiple occasions, turning a whole new generation on to his music. Seals died in 2004 from complications of diabetes; he was survived by his sister and fourteen children.