Lonnie Johnson on Violin?!

Oh, I know.  Boo hoo hoo.  I don’t even know who Lonnie Johnson is because I’m systematically denied my country’s history and heritage in an effort to keep me stupid and complacent and easily manipulatible.

Well, folks, then, it’s time to learn a little something about Lonnie Johnson.  Consider it a revolutionary act.

Like many Johnsons, okay, a few, okay, Robert and Tommy off the top of my head, Lonnie Johnson was a bluesman from the South.  Even if you’re not into old blues, you should be grateful to Lonnie because he pretty much invented the guitar solo as we know it.  No, seriously.  It was him.

So, yeah, he’s known for his guitar work(though, at the time he was alive, he was known more as a singer).  But today, I point you to Honey, Where You Been So Long? where you can hear Luella Miller singing and Lonnie Johnson playing the violin!

On an ostensibly blues song.

Man.  When was the last time you heard a violin on a blues song?

Though, I think you could argue, actually, that it’s weird that we don’t hear it more often.  First of all, it’s a great instrument for replicating and complimenting the kinds of noises blues singers like to make with their voices.  And second, we know the fiddle was a common instrument Southern black musicians might know how to play (check out what Son Sims is holding here.  At the same time, check out a young Muddy Waters.).  You’d think it’d lend itself to the medium.

Oh well, what do I know?  Maybe there is a large repository of violin-featuring blues songs that I just don’t know about.


As a side note, I wonder if there’s some age of my readers who doesn’t know what a “Dago” is, just off the top of their heads.  Is that a slur that’s fading?  It’d be weird and cool to think that I might be the last generation of Americans who’s ever actually heard someone called that.

2 thoughts on “Lonnie Johnson on Violin?!

  1. The Mississippi Sheiks were heavy on the fiddle/violin. And check out the Old Hat Enterprises compilations of violin blues. One is Violin, Sing the Blues for Me and one is something like He Sure Can Pull Some Bow.

    It’s all about the timing. Some of the first regionally/nationally acclaimed blues greats came to prominence in the middle of a cross-genre guitar craze, which helped to fix the concept of blues as guitar-driven.

    That’s about all I got.

  2. Yeah, I guess the slur “dago” is fading…. I haven’t heard that in years & have always wondered the origin of the word.

    Actually, the last time I heard it was college (mid-late ’90s) where this guy from Louisiana (who was coincidentally nicknamed “Coonass”) used it to put down someone. Oh the irony…

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