Lonnie Johnson: Away Down in the Alley Blues


Away Down in the Alley Blues


Lonnie Johnson (guitar)


Great Blues Guitarists: String Dazzlers (Legacy/Columbia)

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Lonnie Johnson (guitar).

Composed by Lonnie Johnson


Recorded: Memphis, TN, February 21, 1928


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Lonnie Johnson's first hit was released in January 1926. By early 1928, Johnson was a premier virtuoso guitarist in both jazz and blues. "Away Down in the Alley Blues" is an early solo instrumental masterpiece in his long career. (He recorded the equally dazzling instrumental "Playing with the Strings" during the same session.)

This track exemplifies Johnson's special talent for sophisticated guitar work, with exceptionally quick fingers and a bluesy feel, and yet the music was very accessible to a broader public. The song illustrates Johnson's statement that "I don't play country blues, I play city blues" (and jazz). As with other Johnson gems, this song has a fine thematic coherence. It is also a good illustration of Johnson's influence on B.B. King, with the unparalleled vibrato, the unique touch and tone. Lonnie made his guitar sing. And he keeps an underlying propulsive beat going. This exemplifies how Johnson enlarged the language of the guitar for jazz and blues, and it's why B.B. King said of Johnson, "The man was way ahead of his time."

Reviewer: Dean Alger

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