The NYC-based Music Magnet Media launches its new CD label, "Blues Magnet" this week with the release of this previously unissued privately recorded session from 1965.
Lonnie Johnson was born in New Orleans February 8, 1889 and died at Toronto in the summer of 1970. His last years were spent in Canada where he found work and admiration among the traditional jazz bands and their appreciative followers. He recorded in the 1920s as a solo performer singing the blues with his own guitar/violin accompaniment. His competency on the guitar was recognized when he cut a few duet sides with the legendary Eddie Lang. Further recordings found Lonnie performing with Duke, Satchmo, King Oliver and Blind Willie Dunn. I imagine his last commercial recordings were done in Toronto, probably with Jim McHarg's Stompers in November 1965 and issued in 1966.
During 1965, Lonnie's friend and admirer, Bernie Strassberg, invited Johnson to his home in Forest Hills, NY and this "Living Room Session" was the result. Strassberg owned a reel- to- reel Wollensak home recorder and recorded 17 great songs in a situation where the bluesman seems comfortable and at ease. These tracks were surprisingly well recorded and the performance is superb.
Lonnie Johnson delivers a mix of classic blues, Ellington, Gershwin, W.C. Handy and other standards. Blues Magnet has done their best to cleanup the aging tape and the result is a CD that no blues fan should miss. This is essential music for fans of Lonnie Johnson.
Bernie Strassberg maintained a close friendship with Lonnie until the performer died in 1970 as a result of a serious auto accident and a stroke. Strassberg is to be commended for making this rare material available to the public. Bravo!