My wife has recently been listening to the The Complete Folkways Recordings of Lonnie Johnson. She seems to think we have a competition to discover the best recordings on eMusic.com each month and is quite proud of herself with the Lonnie Johnson recordings. I knew the name Lonnie Johnson but admit I hadn’t listened to many of his recordings and had not researched his history. This month my wife wins.
I had previously written about Eddie Lang and how he was one of the first guitarists to play single line solos. It turns out that Eddie Lang made some recordings with Lonnie Johnson and Lonnie probably deserves the credit for introducing single line solos. Eddie Lang, a white man, used the name Blind Willie Dunn for his recordings with Johnson. 1
I am listing Lonnie Johnson as a blues guitarist but he played jazz as well and performed with Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and Duke Ellington. As to blues musicians, Robert Johnson is said to have sometimes introduced himself as on of the Johnson Boys – Like Lonnie. 2
Listen to Lonnie Johnson play in the following videos. No one was combining singing with single line guitar solos when he started. His lines are great and suggest ideas which T-Bone Walker, B.B. King and others later used. My wife also likes his voice. Hope you enjoy him as well.
Lonnie Johnson introduced by Sonny Boy Williamson.
Hope you noticed Lonnie’s Kay electric guitar.
Folkways Recordings of Lonnie Johnson. Above from Amazom.com. Below from iTunes.