Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Happy Birthday: Lonnie Johnson & Choklate

Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson

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. Johnson was born in Orleans Parish, 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.

n 1925, Johnson entered and won a blues contest at the Booker T. Washington Theatre in St. Louis, the prize being a recording contract with Okeh Records. To his regret, he was then tagged as a blues artist, and later found it difficult to be regarded as anything else. He later said, "I guess I would have done anything to get recorded - it just happened to be a blues contest, so I sang the blues." Between 1925 and 1932 he made about 130 recordings for the Okeh label. He was called to New York to record with the leading blues singers of the day including Victoria Spivey and country blues singer Alger "Texas" Alexander. He also toured with Bessie Smith's T.O.B.A. show.

In 1927, Johnson recorded in Chicago as a guest artist with Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, paired with banjoist Johnny St. Cyr. In 1928 he recorded with Duke Ellington, as well as with a group, The Chocolate Dandies. He pioneered the guitar solo on the 1927 track "6/88 Glide" and many of his early recordings showed him playing 12-string guitar solos in a style that influenced such future jazz guitarists as Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt, and gave the instrument new meaning as a jazz voice. Much of Johnson's music featured experimental improvisations that would now be categorised as jazz rather than blues. According to blues historian Gérard Herzhaft, Johnson was "undeniably the creator of the guitar solo played note by note with a pick, which has become the standard in jazz, blues, country, and rock". Johnson's style reached both the Delta bluesmen and urban players who would adapt and develop his one string solos into the modern electric blues style.

Johnson's compositions often depicted the social conditions confronting urban African Americans ("Racketeers' Blues", "Hard Times Ain't Gone Nowhere", "Fine Booze and Heavy Dues"). In his lyrics he captured the nuances of male-female love relationships in a way that went beyond Tin Pan Alley sentimentalism. His songs displayed an ability to understand the heartaches of others that Johnson saw as the essence of his blues.


The type of artistry that Choklate brings to the Soul table, she's one who could be credited as making people to be able to breathe easy and feel refreshed again. Put both of her studio projects on ("Choklate" & "To Whom It May Concern") and you can repeat these feelings as much as your heart desires. Many don't know or understand the depth of Soul music and it's history. However, Choklate knows this by saying, "I just do what I feel inside", and also says, "All of the music that I make is from my soul".

Singer/Songwriter "Choklate" Moore was born in Seattle, Washington, and raised in San Diego, California. Having grown up to gospel, the sounds of Hip-Hop would later catch her ear. She recalls listening to everything from Bach to Yo Yo Ma to Brother Lynch Hung and everything else in between. Upon leaving San Diego to return to Seattle, Choklate didn't see pursuing a music career until visiting her brother. "I arrived at my brother’s house, and there was a music studio in front of me",she says.

Choklate didn't see music as an option until moving back to Seattle. At the time, she was going to school for graphic design and working in nursing, having received certification in the nursing field. Her brother Mike, owner of Common Sense Studios allowed her in the booth after she constantly joked with him about allowing her in the studio. And the rest you can say....is history.

For someone who has only a few years in the industry, Choklate has created a huge buzz and a good following. This soulful artist is not one to be bogged down to one genre. She has performed with and opened for the likes of Roy Ayers, Dwele, Bilal, Boys II Men, and many others. She has touched many stages in her home town, as well as in DC, Houston, NYC, Philly, Virginia, Atlanta, other cities across the U.S., and also toured many countries in Europe.

Below is the video of my favorite tune penned by Choklate from her "To Whom It May Concern" album. It's a certified "BANGER" on a feel good level that makes you want to get up and dance (or do like I do and bump it in your car). For more info on tour dates, complete bio, and other info, log on to ChoklateMusic.com

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