Lonnie Johnson
Jun 20, 2009
Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson (1899-1970) was a guitarist and singer who started working as a teenager. He recorded for Okeh records in the 1920s and experienced a number of ups and downs before returning to some prominence in the late 1950s. He recorded the sessions on The Complete Folkways Recordings for Moe Asch in 1963. The recordings here are solo guitar efforts. At the end of some tracks Lonnie can be heard conversing with Moe Asch.

His guitar work is very clean and pure. He does a version of Careless Love that is, if I recall correctly, somewhat different than the one sung by Eartha Kitt and Nat King Cole in the W. C. Handy biopic St. Louis Blues. Kitts version is, if memory serves, smooth and seductive. Johnson’s version has an undertone of bitterness.

At the end of Falling Rain Blues he says that he’s led a beautiful life despite some ups and down. He’s seen it sweet and he’s seen it hard, and there were times when you couldn’t get a job but somehow he’s managed to make it.