The Guitar Players


The Guitar Players

One Instrument and Its Masters in American Music

James Sallis

288 pages


February 1994


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

"The guitar and American music are inexorably intertwined," writes James Sallis in The Guitar Players. He notes that "American music was built on the backs of black slaves." The great classical blues period of the 1920s had rich antecedents going back further than plantation orchestras featuring fiddles and bajos. The introduction of the guitar, at first not a solo instrument, really demonstrated rhythmic ingenuity.

Sallis shows how folk music and a cross-fertilization of traditions and techniques resulted in blues, ragtime, jazz, rock 'n' roll, and country-western. He writes eloquently about fourteen transitional or pivotal performers: the Mississippi Sheiks; Lonnie Johnson, the first virtuoso blues guitarist; Eddie Lang, the first great jazz guitarist; Roy Smeck, the foremost popularizer of guitar playing; Charlie Christian, the founder of modern jazz guitar; Riley Puckett, the first great country-music guitarist; T-Bone Walker, "daddy of the blues"; George Barnes; Hank Garland; Wes Montgomery, the jazz innovator; Mike Bloomfield, the heavy-rock guitarist; Ry Cooder; Ralph Towner; and Lenny Breau.

Author Bio

James Sallis, who grew up in Helena, Arkansas, a town with a history of blues activity, is a free-lance writer. The Long-Legged Fly was named one of the best mysteries of the year by the Los Angeles Times. Moth is his second novel to feature the black New Orleans detective Lew Griffin.


"In addition to useful biographical information on such players as Lonnie Johnson, Riley Puckett, Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, there are insights into the developments of jazz, bluegrass, rockabilly and blues as seen through the eyes of guitar players. . . . A genuinely enjoyable volume."—Jazz Guitar Online

"As James Sallis demonstrates, our best guitarists are a breed apart-autodidactic, wildly inventive, obsessed. . . . Sallis has written a highly entertaining, anecdotal survey that says much about the glories of American know-how."—Gary Giddins, author of Riding on a Blue Note and Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker

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