Between blues and jazz, few had it down as well as Lonnie Johnson. Born in Orleans Parish in 1899 in a family of musicians, by eighteen years of age he was already off to England with a music revue. When he returned home he found all his family had perished with the 1918 influenza epidemic. Only a brother survived, James "Steady Roll" Johnson, and they teamed up together for awhile.
Johnson started recording with Okeh in 1925 and cut 130 tracks with the label over the next eight years. He went to the Bluebird label in the 30s&40s, Decca in Chicago, then King Records in 1947. His inspiration spans with Armstrong and Ellington as he gives it back to both, as well as to Elvis and Bob Dylan. The latter readily admits his first album is busy with Lonnie Johnson wisdom. Just listen to "Corrina, Corrina".
Johnson picked up the electric guitar in 1939. Before that, his influence to all jazz guitarists, including Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt, is a phenomenon all its own.
In his later years Johnson could be found on many Prestige recordings, all memorable. His performing could be erratic where one found him making a living as a steel foundry worker, or janitor...just to make ends meet. It's the old Blues story in old worn torn young America.
The great one was struck by a car in Toronto in 1969, causing kidney injuries and a broken hip leading to a fatal stroke in 1970.
There is a whole evening, or two, of Lonnie Johnson to listen to ~ try "The Mooche", "Winnie the Wailer", "Hot Fingers" for the unmatched. I'm offering a tune here that's pure stream running Lonnie Johnson.