Penultimate Day of Jazz Guitar Week
Charles "Charlie" Christian finishes second by a whisker in BBR jazz guitar week. Charlie was born in Bonham, Texas but raised in Oklahoma City. His dad was a musician who played Oklahoma City's "Deep Deuce" section of music clubs. Although Charlie started on trumpet in school, his dad taught him guitar solos as a gimmick to go to during performances on the Deep Deuce. When he played though. It was no gimmick. From his first appearance in dad's band Oklahoma City was alight with his name. In 1939 John Hammond introduced Charlie to Bennie Goodman and Bennie hired him. At the time Bennie's band was like the Grateful Dead: they had the most devoted fans of any touring band. Charlie's style on the guitar imitated great sax players like Lester Young but since the electric guitar was so young and Charlie's one-note runs were so virtuosic, he was considered an absolute innovator. And, though Goodman played firmly in the swing style of the day, when the band was in NYC Charlie would go to Minton's Playhouse in Harlem after Goodman gigs and jam with Monk and others in a free way which evolved into be-bop. Christian literally invented be-bop when he coined the term to onomatopoetically describe the sounds he and the Mintons jammers made. At 25 Charlie contracted tuberculosis and checked into a sanitarium in Staten Island. He seemed to be making progress toward beating the deadly disease, planning to start his own band with fellow Goodman alum Cootie Williams, but he died before his 26th birthday. His influence was so widespread he was inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame but the cemetery where he was buried in Bonham had him under an unmarked concrete slab until 2013. Nevertheless, Charlie is the second best guitarist of all time by BBR guitar week standards.