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Lonnie Johnson: The Unsung Blues Legend (The Living Room Session)

Glenn Astarita By

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Born in New Orleans, La. the late and now legendary guitarist-singer-songwriter Lonnie Johnson recorded with Louis Armstrong’s fabled and at the time (1927) - innovative “Hot Five”, while also recording with Duke Ellington and pioneering guitarist Eddie Lang. A brilliant and inspirational guitarist to more than just a few, Johnson didn’t always garner the respect he so well deserved. Interestingly enough, this newly released recording, The Unsung Blues Legend comprises material recorded at jazz and blues devotee, Bernie Strassberg’s living room in Queens, New York - one evening in 1965. Here, Johnson vocalizes and strums his guitar throughout these seventeen tracks, that include – W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues”, Bessie Smith’s “Back Water Blues”, Gershwin’s “Summertime” along with two Johnson originals and compositions by Hoagy Charmichael, Earl Hines and others.

Mr. Strassberg recorded Johnson’s performances on a reel-to-reel tape machine, therefore if you’re expecting state of the art digital reproduction than you might be disappointed with this set as the sound quality is so-so at best. Yet, if you are an archivist or ardent Blues collector than this release should serve as an important document and vital addition to your collection. Throughout, Johnson’s ringing, passionate vocals and classy counter-melody style of execution on guitar provides just a glimpse of his enormous yet at times under-recognized talents. Finally, they have created a Lonnie Johnson website (www.lonniejohnson.com) which contains the artist’s discography, transcripts and historical documents as you might also want to check out the “Blues Magnet” website which is: www.bluesmagnet.com


Title: The Unsung Blues Legend (The Living Room Session) | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Blues Magnet Records


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