guitarist

Leo Kottke – 6 and 12 String Guitar

Leo Kottke – 6 and 12 String Guitar

Leo Kottke is a talented and eclectic guy. Originally from Georgia, as a child the guitarist moved frequently around the U.S. with his family. It is perhaps this peripatetic existence that formed, or at least molded, his talent. And it is quite some talent… though more on that later.

6 and 12 String Guitar (an honest album title if there ever was one) was the 1969 album that put Kottke on the map. Also known as the Armadillo album (though credit must also be given to the ant pictured on the striking black and white album cover), this was not Kottke’s first effort—that would be 12 String Blues, issued earlier that same year. Nonetheless, it was 6 and 12 String Guitar that established Kottke’s reputation—and he was only in his mid-twenties at the time. read more…

George Van Eps – The Quiet Master

George Van Eps – The Quiet Master

One of my all-time favorite guitarists is the late George Van Eps (1913-1998). Van Eps, born in Plainfield, NJ, and son of popular banjoist Fred Van Eps, grew up around music. Not only was his father a noted musician, but his brothers were also professional musicians. His mother was an accomplished pianist. As a child growing up during the era of Prohibition (1920-1933), his father became well-known among fellow musicians for his high-quality “hootch,” and his house was often filled with members of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra among others. George remembered being bounced on frequent visitor George Gershwin’s knee. read more…

Jimmy Raney: Bebop’s Quiet Master

Jimmy Raney: Bebop’s Quiet Master

Jimmy Raney, one of the great unsung heroes of bebop jazz guitar was born in Louisville, KY, in 1927. He moved to Chicago in 1946, where he played as accompanist to piano player Max Miller. He also worked with Artie Shaw and Woody Herman before moving to New York City in the late 1940s. Here, he teamed up with tenor saxophone player Stan Getz, with whom he recorded extensively from 1951 to 1952. He replaced Tal Farlow in the Red Norvo Trio in 1953, and remained with him until some time in 1954. He worked in and around New York, including working in Broadway theater pit orchestras until he returned to Louisville in the 1960s. read more…

Johnny Smith – Gentleman Guitarist

Johnny Smith – Gentleman Guitarist

Johnny Smith came on the scene in New York in the late 1940s, after a stint in the Army, where he learned to play a number of instruments. While “paying his dues” and struggling to make a living, Smith roomed with a number of guitarists who went on to be famous in their own right, including Sal Salvador and Jimmy Raney. Thanks to his musical abilities, including the ever-important skill of sight-reading, he wound up on the staff of NBC as a studio player, playing a wide variety of musical styles from country and western to classical, and everything in between, and lots and lots of commercials. By night, he sat in with all the jazz greats on New York’s famous “Swing Street”, 52nd Street. read more…

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