African-American History Month - Next time you hear a guitar solo..
Creator, groundbreaker, innovator. He was a multi-instrumentalist but focused on the guitar. He affected the music of every city or region he performed or recorded in - St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Texas. Django Rheinhardt, BB King, Jimi Hendrix, and England’s Tony Donegan count him as an influence - skiffle player Donegan even took his name. He was brought up in a musical family and learned piano and violin early. He broke down barriers, recording with great blues musicians - men and women - such as Roosevelt Sykes, Texas Alexander, and Victoria Spivey. He then turned in backing performances with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. His instrumental duets with jazz guitarist Eddie Lang were daring in another way - Lang was a white Italian and it was the 1920’s. In those ‘20’s and early ‘30’s he was featured in over 130 records. Not just prolific, he was an original. He improvised guitar solos and is credited with being the first to do so. Naturally, he was left behind in the post-World War II scene and of course he was rediscovered and played again in the 1960’s. While touring in Canada, he found racial tolerance instead of discrimination, and stayed. While living in Toronto, he was struck by a car. He had a series of strokes after the accident and died there at the age of 71. But today we celebrate the beginnings of every jazz, blues, and rock fan’s source of awestruck wonder. On this eighth day of African-American History Month, we remember Alonzo “Lonnie” Johnson, born on this day in 1899 in New Orleans.
Here is one of his instrumental works with Blind Willie Dunn - aka Eddie Lang from 1929.