Sonny’s Story

An inspiring story of Sonny, a black man who is doing his best for a long time to help black people around him.

Sonny has been a staple in the community of Rockford for almost five decades, and to quote Ann Thompson-Kelly “Sonny IS The West Side”, so it should come as no surprise that a street being named in his honor is well a well-deserved honor.

Sonny likes to say Rockford is his home, but he is from Chicago by way of a small town in Mississippi. Although the town is from is small, James “Sonny” Crudup bought his BIG dreams with him.

He began by working at Chrysler in the late 60’s through the early 70’s, then Essence Magazine was placed on the shelf for black folks, so Sonny took that name, that symbolized BLACKNESS and entered a partnership to open up ESSENCE RECORDS AND WIG SHOP. He gave us music and beauty the same time. Before Sonny there was no make-up in the city for black women, but he got it for us.


In 1974 he decided it was time to venture out on his own, so he birthed Ubiquity Records. The true definition of Ubiquity is “Being everywhere at once”, Sonny defines it as “Being everywhere at the same time”.

By 1982 the Metro Center had been built and he saw a need for venues for us, by us and then he began securing acts to come to the city that catered to music genres the black community was familiar with giving us a reason to put on our Sunday’s best on Wednesday. The 80’s was a great decade for new things, The Black Fest Waterfront, President of the West State Business Association and Let’s Dance, a local television show, it was like Rockford’s version of Soul Train.

Sonny was not limited to music and beauty, he was also on the Ellis Arts Academy Board, making major decision that would affect our children and the educational system on the west side in a positive way. He backed Mayor Box and State Representative Doug Scott, who did great things for the city.


Sonny has sponsored The Gus Macker, Booker Washington Center, Northwest Community Center, Blackhawk Community Center and the Mas Crew Zumbathon. He was the Master of Ceremony for the Black Alumni Association of Iowa University, intricate part of the Auburn Street Business Association, Jim Ryan’s West State Project.

Sonny is currently supporting the Tom McNamara campaign for Mayor, and committed to Awaken foundation L3C and Ipsc Academy.

In short, Sonny is all about and been involved in all things community: Music, beauty, entertainment, education, radio, television, politics. As it was said before. Sonny IS the West Side and we should ALL be proud to see the sign go up.

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