Lonnie Johnson – Inventor of Modern Guitar Solo
A hundred years ago (before the First World War), the guitar was a versatile instrument mainly used for rhythmic support. Lightweight and portable, neither too expensive nor too noisy (softer than the banjo), it was the ideal lounge instrument, convenient for parties and singing (especially in the absence of home piano) and as harmonic accompaniment for more expressive solo instruments such as violin or clarinet.
In 1920s dance bands and orchestras (the rock bands of their era), the guitar was usually played in a sitting position, and in the back with the rhythm section (bass and drums). glamorous instruments (trumpet, clarinet, saxophone and trombone). But today, and indeed for many decades now, the electric guitar has come to occupy the foreground that divides the ears.
How does the simple "flat-top box" shift from auditory darkness to global hegemony? Who was the first musician to go on and perform a single note guitar solo in the manner of a violinist or horn player? The evidence strongly suggests that it was the New Orleans born bluesman Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson (1899-1970).
Born into a family of musicians, young Lonnie teaches violin, piano and guitar. As a teenager, he played guitar in his father's New Orleans dance group. He was a highly skilled singer and talented singer, and in 1925 was awarded a contract with Okeh Records (for which he has historically recorded on 130 sides).
In 1927, he was hired to record instrumentally in Chicago with the famous Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five. An invitation to play with the company's most successful jazz band was a rare honor, bestowed only on advanced elite players. Why did Armstrong ask Lonnie Johnson to sit down? It could not be for his vocal skills – Satchmo himself is busy with it. Maybe it had something to do with his singular (ie, previously unheard of) pick-up picking style.
The first known recorded performance of the single-note plectrum technique (the prototype of what we now call the "leader" guitar game) was performed by Lonnie Johnson on the 1927 version of Hot Five "Glide 6/88". an acoustic Martin round hole like the one pictured above). Here, blues historian Gerard Herzhaft (1997) quotes Johnson as "undeniably the creator of the guitar solo played note by note with a pick, which has become the norm in jazz, blues, country and rock "
What was the significance of Johnson's 1927 Hot Five? Many people like to credit icons of the 1930s guitar like Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Robert Johnson for introducing the picking technique to note However, a simple chronology indicates the contrary: Fifteen years younger than Johnson, Charlie Christian (born in 1916) remembers listening to Lonnie's records on the radio as he grew up in the world. Oklahoma during the Great Depression Jazzman gypsy Django Reinhardt (born 1910), a big fan of Louis Armstrong, doubless first heard Johnson's distinctive technique on the 1927 Hot Five seminal disc. and the violinist Stéph Grapelli did not form their famous Quintette of the Hot Club of France until a few years later in 1935. And the bluesman Robert Johnson (no parent) did not record a lick before 1936-37 (the legendary Dallas / San Antonio sessions).
Yes, the world's first guitarist was Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson.