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Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson (February 8, 1899 June 16, 1970) was an American blues and jazz singer/guitarist and songwriter who pioneered the role of jazz guitar and is recognized as the first to play single-string guitar solos.

Biography

File:Lonnie Johnson.jpgEarly career
Johnson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in a family of musicians. He studied violin, piano and guitar as a child, and learned to play various other instruments including the mandolin, but concentrated on the guitar throughout his professional career. "There was music all around us," he recalled, "and in my family you'd better play something, even if you just banged on a tin can."

By his late teens, he played guitar and violin in his father's family band at banquets and weddings, alongside his brother James "Steady Roll" Johnson. He also worked with jazz trumpeter Punch Miller in the city's Storyville district.

In 1917, Johnson joined a revue that toured England, returning home in 1919 to find that all of his family, except his brother James, had died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

He and his brother settled in St. Louis in 1921. The two brothers performed as a duo, and Lonnie also worked on riverboats, working in the orchestras of Charlie Creath and Fate Marable. In 1925 Lonnie married Mary Smith (i.e. Mary Johnson, a blues singer on her own right, who recorded from 1929 until 1936 - curiously enough never with Lonnie Johnson), with whom he had six children before their divorce in 1932.