On this fine day we celebrate a man whom I consider to be one of the finest jazz and blues guitarists of all time, Mr. Lonnie Johnson, who was born on this day in 1899. Here are two great guitar blues songs from earlier in his career.
Alonzo “Lonnie” Johnson was born February 8, 1899 in cradle of jazz, New Orleans, Louisiana into a family of musicians. After touring Europe in 1917, Lonnie returned home to find his family dead from a flu epidemic, except for his brother, James “Steady Roll” Johnson. Leaving New Orleans, Lonnie and his brother settled in St. Louis some years after, and performed as a duo. In 1925, Lonnie Johnson signed a contract to record with Okeh Records, with whom he stayed until the 1930s. Working both as an solo artist, accompanist, and sometimes band member, he went on to have a long career in music, continuing to perform until near his death in 1970.
Okeh 8557 was recorded November 9, 1927 in New York by Lonnie Johnson, accompanied by his own guitar. Both songs are Johnson’s own compositions.
First we hear Johnson sing a tale of the high seas on “Life Saver Blues”.
Next, Lonnie sings of being intimidated by firearm wielding ghosts in “Blue Ghost Blues”. Lonnie Johnson later re-recorded this song for Decca in March of 1938.
Updated with improved audio on April 27, 2018.