Another Night to Cry, 1963
guitar simply would not have developed in the manner that it did
if not for the prolific brilliance of Lonnie Johnson. He was there
to help define the instrument's future within the genre and the
genre's future itself at the very beginning, his melodic conception
so far advanced from most of his pre-war peers as to inhabit a plane
all his own. For more than 40 years, Johnson played blues, jazz,
and ballads his way; he was a true blues originator whose influence
hung heavy on a host of subsequent blues immortals.
versatility doubtless stemmed in great part from growing up in the
musically diverse Crescent City. Violin caught his ear initially,
but he eventually made the guitar his passion, developing a style
so fluid and inexorably melodic that instrumental backing seemed
superfluous. He signed up with OKeh Records in 1925 and commenced
to recording at an astonishing pace -- between 1925 and 1932, he
cut an estimated 130 waxings. The red-hot duets he recorded with
White jazz guitarist Eddie Lang (masquerading as Blind Willie Dunn)
in 1928-29 were utterly groundbreaking in their ceaseless invention.
Johnson also recorded pioneering jazz efforts in 1927 with no less
than Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Duke Ellington's orchestra.
the Depression and moving to Chicago, Johnson came back to recording
life with Bluebird for a five-year stint beginning in 1939. Under
the ubiquitous Lester Melrose's supervision, Johnson picked up right
where he left off, selling quite a few copies of "He's a Jelly
Roll Baker" for old Nipper. Johnson went with Cincinnati-based
King Records in 1947 and promptly enjoyed one of the biggest hits
of his uncommonly long career with the mellow ballad "Tomorrow
Night," which topped the R&B charts for seven weeks in
1948. More hits followed posthaste: "Pleasing You (As Long
as I Live)," "So Tired," and "Confused."
seemed to have passed Johnson by during the late '50s. He was toiling
as a hotel janitor in Philadelphia when banjo player Elmer Snowden
alerted Chris Albertson to his whereabouts. That rekindled a major
comeback, Johnson cutting a series of albums for Prestige's Bluesville
subsidary during the early '60s and venturing to Europe under the
auspices of Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau's American Folk Blues Festival
banner in 1963. Finally, in 1969, Johnson was hit by a car in Toronto
and died a year later from the effects of the accident.
Another Night to Cry 1963