Lonnie Johnson

He was a hugely influential and original musician of blues in the early 1900s. His music often crossed over into jazz. Without Lonnie Johnson’s brilliance, blues guitar would never have evolved in the way it did. Johnson was instrumental in defining the future of the instrument and the genre at large. His melodic conception was so much better than that of most prewar blues musicians, he could even fly. Johnson was an innovator in blues music, who influenced many blues legends over the years. Johnson played blues, jazz and ballads for more than 40 decades. Johnson’s extraordinary versatility is no doubt due to his upbringing in Crescent City, a musically rich city. Although he initially fell in love with the violin, he soon became a passionate guitarist and developed a style that was so fluid and melodic, that it seemed unnecessary to have an instrumental back up. In 1925, he signed up for OKeh Records and began recording at an incredible pace. Between 1925 and 1932, he recorded an estimated 130 waxings. His red-hot duets with Eddie Lang, a white jazz guitarist masquerading as Blind Willie Dunn in 1928-1929 were truly groundbreaking in their ingeniousness. Johnson recorded the pioneering jazz efforts of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong in 1927. Johnson returned to Bluebird in 1939 for a five year stint. He had lived through the Depression and moved to Chicago. Johnson continued his career under Lester Melrose’s guidance, and sold quite a few copies for the old Nipper of “He’s A Jelly Roll Baker”. Johnson joined Cincinnati-based King Records, where he quickly enjoyed “Tomorrow Night,” a mellow ballad that topped the R.

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