365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 18

Lonnie Johnson – Vol. 1 1937 – 1940


Lonnie Johnson comes up in conversation amongst music obsessives so often you’d think he was the most listened to guitarist in the world.

Oddly enough tho, I’m not sure that’s not the case.

Lonnie Johnson has a complicated history; largely the result of being too good a player, and simply living too long. When you’re that good, and you last that long, it’s inevitable you’re going to produce a lot of music … a lot of different music. And that’s the case with Lonnie Johnson.

Was he jazz? Was he blues? Was he folk?

Depending on which recordings you listen to, he was all of those, and none of them.

What he WAS … was an incredible guitar player. And so influential. Listen to Robert Johnson’s canonical recordings, and then go listen to It Ain’t What You Usta Be from these sessions, and you’ll learn an awful lot real quick about how influential this Mr. Johnson really was.

Once you’re done with that, go listen to Swing Out Rhythm. That’ll explain a lot of things to you as well. Django things.

Lonnie Johnson didn’t have a great singing voice, and he largely refused to play the “old blues guy” role during the 60s “rediscovery” era, so his legacy is ultimately a kind of odd one, in that everyone knows him, everyone talks about him, everyone acknowledges his influence, but I don’t know that all that many people actually listen to him.

Which is why I’m recommending THIS particular set of recordings. Because it’s largely just him, solo, or occasionally, with simple piano accompaniment, and he’s largely playin’ blues. Here, you can really hear what all the fuss is about THIS Mr. Johnson.


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