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Famous Like Me > Composer > J > Lonnie Johnson

Profile of Lonnie Johnson on Famous Like Me

Name: Lonnie Johnson  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 8th February 1894
Place of Birth: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
For information about Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker, see Lonnie Johnson (inventor)

Alfonzo "Lonnie" Johnson (February 8, 1894 – June 6, 1970) was a pioneering blues and jazz singer/guitarist born in New Orleans, Louisiana. There is some dispute over the year of his birth, but 1894 is what appears on his passport. Raised in a family of musicians, Johnson studied violin and guitar as a child, but concentrated on the latter throughout his professional career. A 1917 tour to England with a revue may have saved his life, for he returned to New Orleans in 1919 to find that most of his family had died in the post-World War I influenza epidemic.

In the early 1920s, Johnson worked with the orchestras of Charlie Creath and Fate Marable on riverboats, but he made St. Louis his home in 1925. There he entered and won an Okeh Records blues contest that resulted in his making a series of memorable recordings for the label between 1925 and 1932, including guitar duets with Eddie Lang and vocal duets with Victoria Spivey. In the 1920s, Johnson also made guest appearances on records by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, the Duke Ellington orchestra, and The Chocolate Dandies, playing 12-string guitar solos in an extraordinary, pioneering single-string style that greatly influenced such future jazz guitarists as Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt, and gave the instrument new meaning as a jazz voice.

Lonnie Johnson's career was a rollercoaster ride that sometimes took him away from music. In between great musical accomplishments, he found it necessary to take menial jobs that ranged from working in a steel foundry to mopping floors as a janitor. To his great regret, Johnson was always tagged as a blues artist, and he found it difficult to be regarded as anything else. "I had done some singing by then," he explained when asked why he entered the Okeh contest, "but I still didn't take it as seriously as my guitar playing, and I guess I would have done anything to get recorded--it just happened to be a blues contest, so I sang the blues."

Johnson died in Ontario, Canada, June 16, 1970 of complications resulting from a 1969 auto accident. He was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame in 1997.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Lonnie Johnson