Using the stage name Sonny Hudson, singer and musician John Inzillo made a name for himself on Long Island playing his blues harmonica in clubs from Sayville to Rockville Centre.
In fact, Inzillo, who also played the saxophone, was a staple on stages across the metropolitan area for decades, together with a band comprised of longtime friends, offering up an eclectic mix of R&B, Zydeco, rock and funk.
"He studied music with many of the greats of his time and became a talented musician, vocalist and entertainer," said Janet Raman of Glen Oaks, Inzillo’ s longtime partner and band manager. "Blues and Zydeco was very near to his heart although he was talented in every genre."
Inzillo died March 21 at Mount Sinai Queens Hospital after a brief bout with COVID-19. He was 67 and lived in Astoria.
He was born and raised in the Bronx, the older of two children to Crispino Inzillo, who worked in the garment industry, and Concetta Inzillo, a homemaker.
A naturally gifted child, John Inzillo skipped the third grade, moving directly to fourth.
His family would encourage him to perform at a young age, and a love of music blossomed, said Raman, an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Public Health at Adelphi University.
In his youth, Inzillo traveled the globe, whether visiting family in Italy or following blues great Muddy Waters to concerts.
"Music was in our blood from a young age and that continued all his life," said Lisa Milazzo, 62, of Yorktown, Inzillo’s younger sister. "He lived for music."
He began performing with several bands up and down the East Coast and would eventually take on the stage name Sonny Hudson.
Eventually, Inzillo's group performed as the house band at the since-closed Manny’s Car Wash, a blues club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He also performed regularly at BB King Blues Club & Grill and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, both in Manhattan.
On Long Island, Inzillo played at Blackbirds’ Grille in Sayville, Knockouts Bar in Bohemia and Backstreet Blues in Rockville Centre. He was eventually inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame.
Inzillo's daughter, Gabriella Inzillo, 27, lives in Bay Shore.
"His love of entertaining and culinary adventures was only surpassed by the love he felt for his daughter, Gabriella, whom he delighted in," Raman said.
Friends and family said Inzillo was more than just a musician. He worked for a time with special education students in the South Bronx and enjoyed exploring the city’s diverse culture and neighborhoods.
He had an array of medical issues in his later years and struggled with diabetes. Eventually Inzillo had quintuple bypass surgery.
Along with his daughter and sister, Inzillo is survived by brother-in-law Lee Milazzo, 56, and two nieces, Ariana Milazzo, 27, and Alana Milazzo, 23, both of Tarrytown.