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JSP (JSP77117)

Lonnie Johnson was probably one of the most musically sophisticated blues men ever to pick up a guitar. He grew up in New Orleans playing with hot bands on Basin and Bourbon Streets and, after being discovered at a blues talent contest, won himself a contract with OKeh Records where he recorded hit after hit.

His music was so popular that at one point in his career they were releasing new songs every six weeks. Other musicians recognising his talent, clamoured for him to arrange and play on their sessions and live shows and it wasn't long before he found himself working with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, The Chocolate Dandies and Willie Dunn's Gin Bottle Four - incidentally, this group, made up of Lonnie Johnson, King Oliver, Hoagy Carmichael and Eddie Lang, became famous as the world's first integrated band!

Lonnie quickly developed a jazzy, sophisticated style that astonished his contemporaries and his recordings were always filled with quirky twists and turns and flashes of musical genius that inspired many bluesmen, Robert Johnson for one. He turned to his favourite record - Lonnie Johnson's Blue Ghost Blues/Life Saver and adapted the tune and lyrics to flesh out his own compositions Malted Milk and Drunken Hearted Blues. Lonnie's legacy is immense. Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, LaVern Baker and countless others have recorded his songs, BB King cites him as his favourite guitarist at every opportunity, and his 1947 recording of Tomorrow Night is reputed to be one of Bob Dylan's Desert Island Discs!

This four CD box set selects 100 sides from his long and successful career spanning the twenty-six years from his first recordings in 1927 with OKeh and his pre-war material released by Bluebird, Columbia and Decca, to his post war stuff for Disc, Aladdin and eventually King in 1953 where this box finishes but he continued to record until 1967.

It's a tremendous anthology, selecting the very best sides with every aspect of his music covered from band leader to solo performer as well as his work in duos, full bands and small combos. As you go through this superb treasure chest you'll find him in the company of Charles Creath's Jazz-O-Maniacs, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, King Oliver, Clarence Williams, Blind John Davis, Lil Armstrong, Ranson Knowling, Hot Lips Page, Red Prysock and Hal Singer and hear a true guitar innovator playing at the top of his game. This boxed set stands as a great tribute to the music of a great man.


Review Date: January 2010

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