Allow us to take
you on a trip back in time, to a time of dark, smoky
speakeasies featuring “dangerous” new music. It was a time
of colliding worlds, new musical frontiers, and explosive
creativity that would permanently alter the landscape of
popular music. It was a time of racial tensions and the
early years of the struggle for equality. We at the
University of North Texas Press are excited to let you, your
listeners and your website visitors know about a biography
that we have recently published.
Original Guitar Hero and The Power Of Music: The Legendary
Lonnie Johnson Music and Civil Rights
is a definitive account of Johnson’ life, showcasing both
his groundbreaking work as a guitarist as well as his
dedication and contributions to the civil rights movement.
(1894–1970) was a virtuoso guitarist who influenced
generations of musicians from Django Reinhardt to Eric
Clapton to Bill Wyman and especially B. B. King. Born in New
Orleans, he began playing violin and guitar in his father’s
band at an early age. When most of his family was wiped out
by the 1918 flu epidemic, he and his surviving brother moved
to St. Louis, where he won a blues contest that included a
recording contract. His career was launched.
Johnson can be
heard on many Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong records,
including the latter’s famous “Savoy Blues” with the Hot
Five. He is perhaps best known for his 12-string guitar
solos and his ground-breaking recordings with the white
guitarist Eddie Lang in the late 1920s. After World War II
he began playing rhythm and blues and continued to record
and tour until his death.
This is the first
full-length work on Johnson. Dean Alger answers many
biographical mysteries, including how many members of
Johnson’s large family were left after the epidemic. He also
places Johnson and his musical contemporaries in the context
of American race relations and argues for the importance of
music in the fight for civil rights. Finally, Alger analyzes
Johnson’s major recordings in terms of technique and style.
An accompanying music CD will be available from the author.
“This book is
great! Besides the superb review and assessment of
Lonnie Johnson’s music and life, the perspectives on
development of artistry on the guitar and broader societal
impacts make this a profoundly meaningful book.
Lonnie Johnson’s importance for 20th century
music is monumental; this book is long overdue in spelling
- Lawrence Cohn, former Vice President of Columbia/Epic Records,
Grammy-winning producer of Robert Johnson: The Complete
Recordings, editor of Nothing But the Blues.
About the Author:
writings and presentations on blues and jazz for the new
Grove Dictionary of American Music and others have been
widely praised. Also a public affairs consultant, he is the
author of five acclaimed books on democracy, elections, and
media. He lives in St. Paul where he is a singer, guitarist,
from the University of North Texas Press -
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