December 11, 2023

Jazz, Blues, 78 rpm and Guitar solos

People think I`m a bit wild and crazy because I`m still harping on about the benefits of owning a gramophone player. Some of you wont even know what that is. Well, it`s a mechanical record player that you wind up, powered by a spring, that plays shellac 78rpm records through a small amplifying horn. There`s one on the HMV logo – it`s a visual testament to the quality of an H.M.V. recording because the dog can hear “His Masters Voice”.

Because a 10-inch 78 rpm record could hold about three minutes of sound per side and the 10-inch size was the standard size for popular music, almost all popular recordings were limited to around three minutes in length. The original Dixie Land Jass Band are credited with being the first to record a commercial jazz music recording and here is their version of the Tiger Rag. I`m fortunate enough to own a copy of this hot number on `78! Groovy.

So what has all this got to do with guitars. Not too much just yet. The stringed, chord-playing rhythm instrument typical of jazz ensembles from 1900 until the early 1920s was the banjo, an instrument which was much louder than guitars of the time. The banjo could generate enough sound to be heard in groups which included military band-style instruments such as brass, saxes, clarinets, and drums, such as early jazz groups. Ukelele`s were also a prominent rhythmic feature of many records.

As acoustic guitar became more popular in the early 20th century, louder guitars came into manufacture and this allowed them to become more integrated into the popular jazz sound from the late thirties onwards. Prior to that it was up to guitarists such as Lonnie Johnson, pioneer of the (single string) guitar solo or Eddie Lang, a.k.a Blind Willie Dunn, to team up and create these earliest jazz blues crossovers – as heard here on Deep Minor Rhythm Stomp from 1930:

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