This Historic Day In Music: Charlie Christian

Jazz musician & electric guitarist Charlie Christian was born on this day, July 29, in 1916 in Bonham, Texas.

Charlie became a member of the Benny Goodman Quintet on August 16, 1939. Through his resultant 23-month career that included recordings, live performances and several nation-wide radio broadcasts of live performances, Charlie not only established the electric guitar as a viable and exciting voice in Jazz but, ultimately, in the entire world of Popular music.


Thanks to the vast world of folks who post videos/recordings of classic Jazz on YouTube, I can share two of my favorite Charlie Christian recordings with you.

“Seven Come Eleven” features Charlie as a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet: Goodman, clarinet; Lionel Hampton, vibes; Fletcher Henderson, piano; Artie Bernstein, bass; Nick Fatool, drums. This cut was recorded on November 22, 1939 in New York, NY. Charlie’s solo starts at the 45 second mark.

“Solo Flight” finds Charlie with Benny Goodman and His Orchestra. The track was recorded on March 4, 1941, in New York, NY. Charlie’s electric guitar is the featured instrument in this showcase number. He starts playing after a 9 second intro by the orchestra and takes four complete choruses before Benny Goodman gets his licks in for the fifth, but not final, 16 bars.

In his liner notes to the 1972 Columbia Records 2-LP set, Solo Fight: The Genius of Charlie Christian, Chris Albertson writes of Charlie Christian: “His creativity was such that he constantly changed and embellished what he had previously played, often coming up with totally original tunes and riffs in the process.”

Charlie Christian passed away on March 2, 1942. He was 25 years old.

For a more complete bio of Charlie Christian, go to my blog archives for July, 2010 and scroll through to the “On This Day In Music History…” post of July 29, 2010.

For a detailed telling of Charlie’s legendary audition for Benny Goodman, go to my blog archives for August, 2010, and find the post of August 16 entitled “On This Day In Music History: The Audition.”

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