LONNIE JOHNSON.

1894 - 1970.


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Lonnie is born on 8th February in New Orleans possibly near Memphis. However, the year and place of birth remain in debate and there is speculation that the year of birth may have been 1889, 1899 or even 1900.

Having moved from New Orleans to St. Louis in 1925, he wins a talent contest at the Booker T. Washington Theatre. He subsequently makes his first recording, 'Mr Johnson's Blues', for Okeh Records.

In 1927 he makes guest appearances with Louis Armstrong's Hot Five on recording such as 'I'm Not Rough', 'Hotter Than That' and 'Savoy Blues'.

He records the first of ten excellent sides with the guitarist Eddie Lang in 1928, but in 1932 Okeh Records crash out of business as the Depression begins and Lonnie attends his last recording session for the next five years.

By 1937 Lonnie has moved to Chicago, where he begins to record again this time for the Decca label. Then in 1939 he moves on to the Bluebird record label, where he partners pianists such as Roosevelt Sykes, Josh Altheimer and Blind John Davis.

In 1946 Davis and Johnson record some sparkling duets for the Disc label. They do the same again in 1947 for the Aladdin label.

Lonnie records 'Tomorrow Night' in 1948 for the King record label. It becomes one of the biggest R&B hits of the year, reportedly selling three million copies.

Lonnie becomes the first blues singer to tour Britain in 1952, but lack of musical work in the USA forces him to quit music.

Having disappeared from the music scene, Lonnie is found working as a janitor in a Philadelphia Hotel by jazz enthusiast Chris Albertson in 1959.

Later in 1961 now back playing live dates again, he also records two albums with a survivor from the 1920's, Victoria Spivey.

Lonnie tours Europe in 1963 as part of the American Folk Blues Festival.

He is booked for a fortnight at the Penny Farthing coffee house in 1965 in Toronto and soon decides to settle in the city and the following year opens a club called Home of the Blues.

His last known recordings in 1967, two solo albums for the Folkways label.

In 1969 Lonnie is badly injured in a traffic accident and while recovering suffers a stroke that paralysis his left side.

Lonnie Johnson makes his final public performance, at Toronto's Massey Hall. As a result of complications from the 1969 accident, Lonnie dies on 16th June 1970.



Lonnie Johnson.

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