Lonnie Johnson’s “St. Louis Blues”

WHAT’s the most influential song in history? The Atlantic Monthly recently asked Ted Gioia for his answer, and he suggested this W.C. Handy classic, for all the blues songs it engendered, its enduring melody, and partly for its “Spanish tinge.”

220px-LonnieJohnsonByRussellLee1941CropI don’t think Ted, a longtime friend of CultureCrash, was thinking of this version; it’s not especially well known. But guitarist Lonnie Johnson, who straddled blues and jazz and may have invented the guitar solo, is one of my favorite interpreters. His version, recorded during his comeback during the ’60s folk-blues revival, starts in the song’s middle section, and he plays up its Latin quality.

Anyway, here it is. I’ll try to write more fully about Johnson another time. He deserves to be way better known.

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  1. Bob Love says

    “St. Louis Blues” is certainly the most influential song of the last 100+ years. Some years ago I compiled a list of the top 7,000 songs of the XX century and rated the song as #1 for that very reason. (Rating things is fun, albeit silly). The rest of the century is inconceivable with out it.

    Thanks for the tip – I’ll listen to the Lonnie Johnson version in a bit. I love getting referrals like this.

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