From the Record Shelves #184

Stompin’ ’em Along Slow

LP Parlophone PMC 7019

This LP was a shock to me. I had heard Eddie Lang before and liked him a lot, but when I heard Lonnie Johnson’s solo recordings sounding like a one-man band I could hardly believe my ears. I eventually destroyed one track trying to figure out what he was doing. In those days, you had to try and put down the pickup at the right point; there was no other way. Today you can just move the cursor on your computer and lower the speed, and in other ways study the music. Later I found out that Johnson played everything with a special tuning in order to accompany himself. He lowered the two bass strings one whole note step to D and G, and he used a capo to get in higher keys.

Stefan Grossman, who has transcribed some of his solos, went to hear him in the sixties and was disappointed, but he rightly asked himself, “Why didn’t I or somebody else interview him about his early recordings?”

In his four solo performances on this LP he is brilliant with perfect command over his instrument, and his blues feeling is of the highest order. I am a life-long fan of Lonnie Johnson in any period of his long career.