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Lonnie Johnson
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Lonnie Johnson

Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson (February 8, 1899June 16, 1970) was an American blues and jazz singer/guitarist and songwriter who pioneered the role of jazz guitar and is recognized as the first to play single-string guitar solos.

 

Biography

Early career

Johnson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in a family of musicians. He studied violin, piano and guitar as a child, and learned to play various other instruments including the mandolin, but concentrated on the guitar throughout his professional career. "There was music all around us," he recalled, "and in my family you'd better play something, even if you just banged on a tin can."

By his late teens, he played guitar and violin in his father's family band at banquets and weddings, alongside his brother James "Steady Roll" Johnson. He also worked with jazz trumpeter Punch Miller in the city's Storyville district.

In 1917, Johnson joined a revue that toured England, returning home in 1919 to find that all of his family, except his brother James, had died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

He and his brother settled in St. Louis in 1921. The two brothers performed as a duo, and Lonnie also worked on riverboats, working in the orchestras of Charlie Creath and Fate Marable. In 1925 Lonnie married Mary Smith (i.e. Mary Johnson, a blues singer on her own right, who recorded from 1929 until 1936 - curiously enough never with Lonnie Johnson), with whom he had six children before their divorce in 1932.

Johnson had an amazing arrangement with OKeh. Besides recording his own solo blues records, he sat in with legendary OKeh artists like Duke Ellington and got featured guitar solo spots within the band setting, usually without label credit. His scattered guitar solos within a jazz setting made him one of the preeminent jazz guitars of the 1920's.

Johnson was one of the few 1920's blues soloists to continue to record through the 1950's. In 1948, he had a #1 hit "Tomorrow Night" and a #2 hit "Pleasing You (As Long As I Live) on King, as well as a 1949 #9 hit "So Tired" and a 1950 #11 hit "Confused", also on King.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1990

 

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