Eddie Lang: jazz guitar pioneer

March 27, 2010 at 8:49 pm (jazz, Jim D, modernism)

Eddie Lang (b. Philadelphia 25 Oct 1902; d. New York 26 Mar 1933)

Above: with Ruth Etting, 1929

Eddie’s real name was Salvatore Massaro, and he virtually invented  the jazz guitar single-handed in the twenties. Without him, there would have been no Django and no Charlie Christian – at least not as we know them.

Lang was also one of the first “studio” musicians, accompanying the pop singers of the twenties and early thirties like Ruth Etting, Bing Crosby and Annette Hanshaw. He also accompanied black artists like Louis Armstrong (“Knockin’ A Jug“), Bessie Smith (“You’ve Got To Give Me Some“) and Lonnie Johnson (with whom he played guitar duets under the name of “Blind Willie Dunn”):

Here he is with Joe Venuti, Jimmy Dorsey and Adrian Rollini:

Marty Grosz wrote (about one Lang performance, ‘There’ll Be Some Changes Made);

(NB: the Youtube clip I’ve linked to above, erroneously attributes “Changes” to Lonnie Johnson: wrong! It’s  Eddie Lang!):

Changes is a journey from Naples to Lonnie Johnsonville (New Orleans, Nastchez, South Side Chicago) in two and a half minutes. After a cadenza right out of the pagnios of old Italy and a few Scott Fitzgerald chords from pianist Signorelli, Lang proceeds to play a slower than expected Changes, in the simplest and yet most eloquent manner…blue and melancholy as hell. It is a very difficult matter to play the lead as simply and directly as that and to make it come to life, especially on guitar. Here is the real genius of Sal Massaro. This is the honest broad stick. How Eddie Lang found out I don’t know.”

He died on 26 March 1933 having his tonsils out.

 Here’s the only known recording of him talking.

1 Comment

  1. jhonkian said,

    great and the best

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