He received the nickname "Sunny" from his grandmother because of his bright and cheery disposition. He began his career as a ten-year-old singing on the street corners of Crystal Springs, Mississippi. Went to New Orleans age 16 or so to record at Whitecliff Records, the same label and studio as Little Richard and Fats Domino. Appeared regularly at Club 77 on Claiborne Street where he and Bobby Bland shared top billing. Did shows with Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, and Lou Rawls. Toured Europe with BB King and Carol Burnett.
Sunny recorded "Come out into my World" at Whitecliff, and sold ~350,000 copies of the single before the IRS chained the studio door shut. Later, he went to Darva records in Texas, where he recorded "I'm Black and I know I'm Somebody". After this song was banned from radio in Mississippi and other states, it was renamed "Soul 100 Part 1 and Part 2". Soul 100 was minor hit and eventually made it to nearly every jukebox in the Delta. In Texas worked with Ray Stevens, Charlie Daniels, and Willie Nelson.
Sunny has appeared in 18 movies. His most notable parts were in "Leadbelly", in which he played a convict, and "Outlaw Blues", in which he played a Deputy Sheriff. Peter Fonda gave Sunny the idea for the cape that he wears in his show.
During the filming of Outlaw Blues, Sunny had to jump up on top of "ten sacks of fertilizer." Peter Fonda made Sunny repeat the leap so he could see, then made the comment, "Give him a cape. That man can fly!" A cape was presented to Sunny during filming the next day.
Sunny has played literally all over the world. He has toured Europe as part of a show with B. B. King and Carol Burnett. He played on the same bill with Bobby Bland for over a year. He has done TV shows with Lou Rawls, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding. He recorded at Muscle Shoals with Percy Sledge.
He currently lives in his hometown of Crystal Springs, Mississippi.