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Charlie Christian

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Charles (1916-1942) Guitarist

Charlie Christian
Image courtesy of Frank Driggs Collection
Charlie Christian grew up in a slum in Oklahoma City. His father was a blind guitarist and singer, his brothers Edward and Clarence were musicians, and Christian himself built and played cigar-box "guitars" during his elementary school days. When he grew up, he became a much-admired local musician in Oklahoma, playing an amplified acoustic guitar as early as 1937. Word of his skill reached John Hammond, who arranged for Christian to travel to Los Angeles in August 1939 for an audition with Benny Goodman. Goodman, deeply impressed by Christian's playing, engaged him and soon featured him on weekly radio broadcasts and in recordings; before the year was over he was a nationally prominent jazz soloist. Unfortunately his success was brief as it was immediate because he contracted tuberculosis in mid-1941 and died a few months later.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For personal, non-commercial use only. Copying or other reproduction is prohibited.
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