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Featured Blues Book on Lonnie Johnson

 Lonnie Johnson
Title: The Original Guitar Hero and The Power of Music:
The Legendary Lonnie Johnson, Music and Civil Rights
Author: Dean Alger
Publisher: University of North Texas Press
Date Published: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-57441-546-9
Key Review: "Dean Alger offers the long overdue biography of one of the true geniuses of 20th century music. Alger has woven material from extensive research into a narrative that presents the real Lonnie Johnson in light of an unjustly underrated and neglected superstar. Fascinatingly readable, the book goes even further in that it places Johnson in the broadest context of American culture of the 20th century, seeing him rightly not only as a trailblazer and pervasive influence on a variety of musical genres - jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, rock and folk - but as an important symbol of race relations, racial understanding, and racial progress".
  - Steven C. Tracy, Professor of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts.


Allow us to take you on a trip back in time, to a time of dark, smoky speakeasies featuring “dangerous” new music. It was a time of colliding worlds, new musical frontiers, and explosive creativity that would permanently alter the landscape of popular music. It was a time of racial tensions and the early years of the struggle for equality. We at the University of North Texas Press are excited to let you, your listeners and your website visitors know about a biography that we have recently published. The Original Guitar Hero and The Power Of Music: The Legendary Lonnie Johnson Music and Civil Rights is a definitive account of Johnson’ life, showcasing both his groundbreaking work as a guitarist as well as his dedication and contributions to the civil rights movement.

Lonnie Johnson (1894–1970) was a virtuoso guitarist who influenced generations of musicians from Django Reinhardt to Eric Clapton to Bill Wyman and especially B. B. King. Born in New Orleans, he began playing violin and guitar in his father’s band at an early age. When most of his family was wiped out by the 1918 flu epidemic, he and his surviving brother moved to St. Louis, where he won a blues contest that included a recording contract. His career was launched.

Johnson can be heard on many Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong records, including the latter’s famous “Savoy Blues” with the Hot Five. He is perhaps best known for his 12-string guitar solos and his ground-breaking recordings with the white guitarist Eddie Lang in the late 1920s. After World War II he began playing rhythm and blues and continued to record and tour until his death.

This is the first full-length work on Johnson. Dean Alger answers many biographical mysteries, including how many members of Johnson’s large family were left after the epidemic. He also places Johnson and his musical contemporaries in the context of American race relations and argues for the importance of music in the fight for civil rights. Finally, Alger analyzes Johnson’s major recordings in terms of technique and style. An accompanying music CD will be available from the author.

“This book is great!  Besides the superb review and assessment of Lonnie Johnson’s music and life, the perspectives on development of artistry on the guitar and broader societal impacts make this a profoundly meaningful book. Lonnie Johnson’s importance for 20th century music is monumental; this book is long overdue in spelling out why.”
  - Lawrence Cohn, former Vice President of Columbia/Epic Records, Grammy-winning producer of Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings, editor of Nothing But the Blues. 

About the Author:

Deal Alger's writings and presentations on blues and jazz for the new Grove Dictionary of American Music and others have been widely praised. Also a public affairs consultant, he is the author of five acclaimed books on democracy, elections, and media. He lives in St. Paul where he is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter.

Available now from the University of North Texas Press - click here for details

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