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A great piece. Guitar all but inaudible. Raw Sludge. Literally fantastic. They were probably street singers who sang lots of songs about happenings in the news. Wish we could hear news like this now - John Fahey, on William and Versey Smith, When That Great Ship Went Down

Author Topic: Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?  (Read 922 times)

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Offline WayneS

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Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?
« on: September 19, 2011, 07:58:19 PM »
Likely we all know that the first viable commercial electric guitars were lap steels.  But the first country blues recorded on an electric lap steel wasn't done, I think, until  Casey Bill Weldon in 1939 or 1940-- recorded four songs on electric, and three were released.  Electric Spanish guitar had been around for a few years (National electric archtops came out in 1934).  Rick Batey, in "The American Blues Guitar," says (p. 91) that "blues guitarist Homesick James was playing one (note: a Gibson ES-150) by around 1938."  Did he record with it?  Was he the first?   Memphis Minnie switched to electric, apparently some time between 1938 and 1942.  (Batey)

And while we're at it, who was the first bluesman /bluesperson to record a single-note 12-bar melody line?

Jazzmen don't count.

Any help much appreciated.  Thanks!

Offline banjochris

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Re: Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2011, 11:34:48 PM »
Lonnie Johnson's November 2, 1939 session is on electric, although not listed as such in B&GR; George Barnes plays electric on Big Bill's May 5, 1938 session (which is listed as electric). Those are the earliest ones I can think of from my own listening; hopefully someone with more discographical expertise will weigh in.

Big Joe Williams sounds to me like he's amplified slightly at his March 1941 session but not at his May 1937 session with Robert Lee McCoy, although it's possible, since his sound didn't necessarily change drastically.

Offline misterjones

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Re: Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2011, 02:34:08 PM »
Something about Big Big Broonzy occurred to me, as well.  I thought maybe it was a photo in the booklet for the CD "Good Time Tonight".  Not the case, but the CD does list Barnes as playing electric guitar on "It's a Low Down Dirty Shame" (recorded March 1, 1938).  And it clearly sounds like an electric guitar.

Does the bluesman have to play the electric guitar himself to qualify?

Offline banjochris

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Re: Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2011, 03:06:03 PM »
Something about Big Big Broonzy occurred to me, as well.  I thought maybe it was a photo in the booklet for the CD "Good Time Tonight".  Not the case, but the CD does list Barnes as playing electric guitar on "It's a Low Down Dirty Shame" (recorded March 1, 1938).  And it clearly sounds like an electric guitar.

Does the bluesman have to play the electric guitar himself to qualify?

That was what jogged my memory, too, although I must have looked one entry too low in B&GR!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2011, 03:43:27 PM »
Hi all,
If jazz players don't count, then George Barnes wouldn't count, according to the restrictions set out in the first post (though in 1938, differentiating between jazz and blues was a lot tougher than it would be now).
All best,
Johnm

Offline WayneS

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Re: Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2011, 10:56:37 PM »
I've been trying to find out for some time, and I think this nails it.  George Barnes it is.  If he played blues with Big Bill Broonzy, and two weeks later with Broonzy and Washboard Sam, then he gets to be a bluesman as well as a jazzman.   Many thanks!

I looked on YouTube, and you can hear it there.

Offline alyoung

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Re: Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2011, 05:49:18 AM »
FWIW, the Barnes entry on Wikipedia  says "George Barnes made the first recording of an electric guitar in 1938 in sessions with Big Bill Broonzy", 15 days before Eddie Durham's electric guitar recording debut with the Kansas City Five. This presumably ignores various western swing steel players, who were wired up well before 1938. Barnes also claimed to have played electric guitar in 1931. BTW, wasn't he white?   

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Who first recorded country blues on electric guitar?
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2011, 07:36:24 AM »
BTW, wasn't he white?   
Yes, which reminds me.....
In the 1980s, prior to their CD onslaught, Document released a series of "gap filling" BBB LPs. One unissued take (song escapes me) had spliced in at the end a portion of interview where BBB is heard to say something along the lines of "...that?s George Barnes on guitar, he?s a white boy".  For all I know it may have found its way onto the CD series but as I ain't got those......

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