Alonzo “Lonnie” Johnson
(2010 INDUCTEE) JOHNSON WAS AMONG THE GREAT BLUES PERFORMERS OF THE 1920S. BEST KNOWN FOR HIS GUITAR PLAYING, HE ALSO PLAYED VIOLIN, PIANO AND CELESTE ON ANONYMOUS RECORDINGS FOR GENNETT IN 1927.
DONATED IN LOVING MEMORY OF RUTH GENNETT ROLLER, “COUSIN BUNNY” (DAUGHTER OF HARRY GENNETT) BY JOANNA ROLLER CARDINAL (RUTH’S DAUGHTER) AND ALICE MARTIN KARLEBACH
Lonnie Johnson was a major influence in the development of recorded blues in the 1920s, as the music evolved from New York women singers with male pianists and small jazz bands to southern males who provided their own guitar or piano accompaniments, and who were inexpensive to record. Johnson’s records were best sellers that featured his instantly recognizable voice, his accomplished six and twelve-string guitar playing, and occasionally his piano or violin. On one Gennett disc he memorably accompanied singer Lizzie Washington playing two twinkly blues choruses on celeste. In addition to his solo features, Johnson recorded with Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. His 1928-9 guitar duets with Eddie Lang set the standard for jazz guitar playing for years to come. Johnson came of age musically in St. Louis, where his music was reflected in the blues of Peetie Wheatstraw and Robert Johnson. Lonnie Johnson led two remarkable sessions in Gennett’s Richmond studios in 1927, where he played multiple instruments behind St. Louis singers Jelly Roll Anderson, Katherine Baker and Lizzie Washington. Lonnie Johnson’s instrumental work is usually recognizable, whether he’s backing singers or participating on non-vocal dance tunes. Apparently his participation was unnoticed, and he returned to Richmond once more in December 1927 to record songs and instrumentals as “George Jefferson.” Johnson went on to record successfully through the 1960s.
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