Lonnie Johnson


Blues, Ballads And Jumpin' Jazz

  • Release Date: 25 Apr 1994
  • OBCCD-570-2

Blues and Ballads, a 1960 album that paired Lonnie Johnson with fellow guitarist Elmer Snowden, produced some of the most moving performances of Johnson's prolific career. Now, 38 years later, comes more from that remarkable session. Four tracks are typically melancholy Johnson vocals featuring his sweetly stinging guitar, while the other six are instrumentals showcasing Snowden's rhythmically riveting jazz attack. One of those, the gently loping "Careless Love," is a Johns… MORE


A pioneer of both jazz and single-note blues guitar styles and one of the most prolific of all blues recording artists, Alonzo Johnson (1889-1970)… More

Male-female vocal duets are a big thing in the record business these days. One of the first such pairings was that of New Orleans singer-guitarist… More

The father of urban blues, song crooner and guitar master Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson had been cutting records 35 years when he made this… More

This 1960 session marked the comeback of one of the giants of blues and jazz guitar. Lonnie Johnson, who began his recording career in 1925 and… More




Singing guitarist Lonnie Johnson looms as a major stylistic innovator in both the jazz and blues fields. His single-string approach to soloing and sophisticated harmonic sense left a profound mark on several generations of guitar players, including Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, and B.B. King. “He had a somewhat modern style—that is compared to the stuff that I was playing and a lot of other people were playing,” King said in 1968. “He had a modern technique of chord progressions.”

Born in New Orleans, either in 1889 or ’94, Johnson was originally a violinist and later learned banjo, mandolin, guitar, and piano. During the late 1920s, the versatile Johnson was much in demand as a guitarist for recording sessions and was as comfortable accompanying “primitive” country blues singer Texas Alexander as he was in the faster musical company of Lang (with whom he recorded a remarkable series of duets), the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five.

It was as a vocalist, however, that Johnson received the greatest public acclaim. His recording of the sentimental pop song “Tomorrow Night” spent seven weeks at the top of Billboard’s “race” chart in 1948. He had three additional hit singles on King Records over the next two years, but by the end of the Fifties, he had dropped out of music entirely and was working as a janitor at a Philadelphia hotel. Disc jockey Chris Albertson located him there in 1960 and brought him the attention of Prestige Records, for whom Johnson recorded seven albums over the next two years. He remained an active performer until his death in Toronto in 1970.