Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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A. Freed: ‘Lockrem Johnson: Conservative Rebel’, American Composers Alliance Bulletin, viii/4 (1959), 12–17


Johnson, Lonnie [Alonzo]

(b New Orleans, 8 Feb 1889; d Toronto, ON, 16 June 1970). American blues singer and guitarist. The son of a musician and a member of a large, musical African American family, he started playing the guitar and violin professionally in Storyville, New Orleans, while in his teens. By 1917 he was working with Charlie Creath’s Jazz-o-Maniacs on the St Paul riverboat, and later he joined Fate Marable’s riverboat band. He toured the South with Bessie Smith in 1929 and had his own radio show in New York in 1929–30. From 1937 to 1940 he worked with Baby Dodds at the Three Deuces club in Chicago. Late in life he travelled to Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival (1963), and from 1965 he performed regularly in Toronto.

Johnson played brilliantly on such solos as Stomping ’em Along Slow (1928, OK) and in duets with Eddie Lang, for example A Handful of Riffs (1929, OK). He was unique among blues performers in working with jazz musicians, and he recorded with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and, as a member of Blind Willie Dunn’s Gin Bottle Four, King Oliver. He was a sensitive accompanist, providing a sympathetic support to the irregular timing of the blues singer Alger Texas Alexander on Bell Cow Blues (1928, OK) and other titles. Johnson’s own voice was reedy and rather insinuating. His lyrics were generally interesting, a typical example being Low Land Moan (1927, OK), and he had a liking for sentimental themes, such as Baby please don’t leave home no more (1929, OK). He was particularly effective when singing serious blues such as Hard times ain’t gone nowhere (1937, Decca).

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