This Historic Day In Music: “A Handful Of Riffs” & “Blue Guitars”

On Wednesday, May 8, 1929, Blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson and Jazz guitarist Eddie Lang returned to the OKeh Records studio at 11 Union Square in New York City.

Having cut “Guitar Blues” – their third duet – the day before (see my This Historic Day In Music post from May 7, 2018), Eddie and Lonnie set about adding to their collection of duo recordings.

The results of their “jiving” on this day were “A Handful Of Riffs” and “Blue Guitars.”

Lonnie Johnson plays lead guitar on his Acosta 12-string acoustic from start to finish on “A Handful Of Riffs.” He strings together more than a handful of ever more dazzling riffs, licks and improvised melodic lines over Eddie Lang’s consistently rock-solid and highly inventive accompaniment. The duo dashes through fourteen choruses of Blues in the key of D at breakneck speed, with only a brief breakdown right in the middle (at 1:25).

Listen for yourself.


“Blue Guitars” is also a Blues in the key of D, but at a much slower tempo than “A Handful Of Riffs.” Eddie plays the languorous intro on his Gibson L-5 archtop acoustic and then settles into the 12-bar progression in accompaniment of Lonnie’s 12-string improvisations. At 1:12, Eddie steps out for a solo of his own and then returns to laying down the rhythm for Lonnie’s leads over the final three choruses.

Again, give a listen.



Jas Obrecht wrote in his fine book, Early Blues: The First Stars Of Blues Guitar (2015): “The improvisations capture the musician’s warmth, humor, and mutual admiration, and they’re as fresh-sounding today as they were on the day they were recorded.”

Yes, indeed.

“A Handful Of Riffs” b/w “Bull Frog Moan” was released on OKeh Records, #8695.

“Blue Guitars” b/w “Guitar Blues” was released on OKeh Records, #8711.

The artist’s credit line on both recordings reads: Lonnie Johnson & Blind Willie Dunn.

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2 Responses to This Historic Day In Music: “A Handful Of Riffs” & “Blue Guitars”

  1. Thom Hickey says:

    Brilliant! Such life. Regards Thom.

  2. efsinclair says:

    Thanks for the comment, Thom. I agree: these duets are very special. Three minute glimpses into the brilliance and virtuosity of two musical life forces. Four more to come in October. Stay tuned! All the best to you, Eric.

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