Electric Guitar Pioneer

Texas Toast

Charlie Christian's short life as an innovator on swing guitar began in Dallas, Texas on July 29, 1919. Fortunately for the music world his growing up in Oklahoma City gave him exposure to country music and jazz whose mix gave him his special breed of swing.

Oklahoma's OK

It was here in this Oklahoma metropolis that Charlie started playing piano, and met his teacher and the inventor of the amplified guitar, jazz musician, Eddie Durham. By 1937 Charlie was utilizing this new phenomenon and developing his own special single-string style of playing the electric guitar; this would in turn be picked up by another Texan, bluesman T-Bone Walker, recording the first electric blues two years later, and on down through B.B. King and Chuck Berry.


Ironically he was decades ahead of those who would emulate him in the jazz guitar world, and he still had one more novel concept to add, the electric guitar jazz solo. It was more than just utilizing magnets under strings, but smartly and aesthetically developing a unique sound that would make full use of this latest media; not just jazz, but electric blues, all modern country music, through rockabilly on to Rock and all its cousins, owes Christian, big-time. John Hammond the famous talent scout got a tip from Mary Lou Williams that there was a masterful jazz guitarists, with a new sound. Indeed, when he heard Christian put forth licks that rivaled any sax or trumpet, he knew he had to put him touch with the biggest and the best, Benny Goodman. Charlie Christian was blessed with enough virtuosity during that Los Angeles summer of 1939 audition for Goodman's band whereby he overcame his dowdy appearance. His rendition of Rose Room sold the famous bandleader on this addition to an already loaded ensemble. While not playing solos, including the signature, Solo Flight, or Seven Come Eleven, he was jamming with Thelonious Monk, Dizzie Gillespie and Kenny Clarke over at Minton's Playhouse.


So lucky for us that before the twenty-six year old genius died in New York City on the second day of March, 1942, of Tuberculosis contracted in the previous year; he spent two wonderful years recording his experimental, but slick improvisation on his 'wired' axe.


1939 - The Genius of the Electric Guitar, Legacy
1939 - The Immortal Charlie Christian, (Columbia) Legacy
1941 - Live Sessions at Minton's Playhouse, Musidisc
1941 - Memorable Sessions, Blue Note
1993 - Swing to Bop, Natasha Importys
1993 - The Immortal Charlie Christian, Re-released: Laserlight
1994 - 1940, Vol. 5, Masters of Jazz
1994 - 1940-1941, Vol. 6, Masters of Jazz
1995 - 1939, Vol. 1, Masters of Jazz
1995 - 1939-1940, Vol. 1-4, Masters of Jazz
1995 - 1939-1940, Vol. 3, Masters of Jazz
1995 - 1941, Vol. 7, Masters of Jazz
1995 - Solo Flight, Pearl
1996 - Guitar Wizard, Le Jazz
1996 - His Best Recordings: 1939-1941, Best of Jazz
199? - Good Enough to Keep
1998 - Genius of the Electric Guitar, Giants of Jazz
1998 - Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman Sextet 1939-1941,     EPM Musique
2000 - Celestial Express, Definitive Classics
2000 - Charlie Christian/Dizzy Gillespie/Thelonious Monk,     Original Jazz Classics
2001 - Complete Studio Recordings, Definitive Classics
2001 - Radio Broadcasts: 1939-1941, Cleopatra
2001 - Radioland 1939-1941, Varese
2001 - When the Lights Are Low, Catfish


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