Eddie Lang

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Eddie Lang
Lang, late 1920s
Lang, late 1920s
Background information
Birth nameSalvatore Massaro
Also known asBlind Willie Dunn
Born(1902-10-25)October 25, 1902
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedMarch 26, 1933(1933-03-26) (aged 30)
New York City
GenresJazz, swing, chamber jazz
Years active1918–1933
LabelsColumbia, Brunswick, Okeh

Eddie Lang (born Salvatore Massaro; October 25, 1902 – March 26, 1933) was an American musician who is credited as the father of jazz guitar.[1] During the 1920s, he gave the guitar a prominence it previously lacked as a solo instrument, as part of a band or orchestra, and as accompaniment for vocalists.[2] He recorded duets with guitarists Lonnie Johnson and Carl Kress and jazz violinist Joe Venuti, and played rhythm guitar in the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and was the favoured accompanist of Bing Crosby.


Eddie Lang Pennsylvania Historical Marker and mural by Jared Bader at 7th and Fitzwater Streets in South Philadelphia (October 19, 2016)
Eddie Lang Way - 700 Block Saint Albans St Philadelphia PA

The son of an Italian-American instrument maker, Lang was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[3][4] and grew up with violinist Joe Venuti. His first instrument was violin when he was seven. He performed on violin in 1917 and became a member of a trio. In 1920, he dropped the violin for banjo and worked with Charlie Kerr, then Bert Estlow, Vic D'Ippolito, and Billy Lustig's Scranton Siren Orchestra. A few years later, he dropped the banjo for guitar when he became a member of the Mound City Blue Blowers led by Red McKenzie.[5] He recorded one of the first solos in 1924 on "Deep 2nd Street Blues".[4] His performances with McKenzie's band drew attention, and he found many jobs as a freelance guitarist.[5] Before Lang, the guitar hadn't been a prominent instrument in jazz bands and dance orchestras.[4]

Lang and Joe Venuti recorded with Roger Wolfe Kahn and Jean Goldkette and performed with the Adrian Rollini Orchestra.[5] Lang recorded with blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson under the name Blind Willie Dunn to hide his race[2][3][6] and as a tribute to blues guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson.[4] He also worked with Frankie Trumbauer, Hoagy Carmichael, Annette Hanshaw, Red Nichols, Jack Pettis, Bessie Smith, and Clarence Williams.[5]

Friendship with Bing Crosby[edit]

In 1929, Lang and Venuti became members of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and again Lang made an impact. Whiteman was impressed by his ability to learn songs quickly, though Lang had little education and could not read music. During the same year, vocalist Bing Crosby made his first solo recordings. His guitarist was Snoozer Quinn, but for the second session he invited Lang. Their friendship grew when Crosby joined the Whiteman Orchestra on its trip west to Hollywood to make the movie King of Jazz, in which Lang and Venuti appeared. In 1930, when Crosby was looking for a job in radio, he insisted on having Lang as his accompaniment. Aside from his friendship with Crosby, he had experience accompanying vocalists, such as Rube Bloom. When Crosby toured soon after, Lang sat on a stool next to him to share the microphone. Lang's wife Kitty, a Ziegfeld girl, was friends with Crosby's wife, Dixie.[4] He became a regular in Crosby's orchestra in 1932, the same year he appeared in the movie The Big Broadcast (1932).[2]


Lang suffered from occasional laryngitis, chronic sore throat, and digestion problems. After a doctor recommended a tonsillectomy, Crosby urged Lang to have the operation.[4][7] Assured that the operation was routine, Lang entered Park West Hospital in Manhattan, but he never awoke from the surgery. He died at the age of thirty in 1933.[4][8] The cause of his death is uncertain.[7][8] Lang is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.[8]


Gibson L5 owned by Lang

Lang, along with New Orleans born Lonnie Johnson, were among the first single-string guitar soloists. He played the melody on one string while adding occasional chords. He demonstrated that the guitar could be an instrument for accompaniment like the piano.[4]

While most bands of the time had a banjo player, Lang was skilled enough to make his acoustic guitar heard against the other instruments. He was so influential that, according to George Van Eps, banjo players had no choice but to switch to guitar.[6]

George Harrison once cited Lang as one of his favourite guitarists.[9]

Lang played Gibson L-4 and L-5 guitars.[10][4]


In 1977, Lang's recording of "Singin' the Blues" with Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and in 2006 was placed on the U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry. He was inducted into the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame (1986)[11] and the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame (2010).

On October 23, 2016, Philadelphia's Mural Arts organization dedicated the mural Eddie Lang: The Father of Jazz Guitar, by artist Jared Bader. The mural stands by Lang's childhood home and the James Campbell School that stood at 8th and Fitzwater where Lang learned to play.[12] The mural was championed by area guitarist Richard Barnes, who started "Eddie Lang Day in Philadelphia" in 2010, an annual charity event.[13]


Lang's compositions, based on the Red Hot Jazz database, include "Wild Cat" with Joe Venuti, "Perfect" with Frank Signorelli, "April Kisses", "Sunshine", "Melody Man's Dream", "Goin' Places", "Black and Blue Bottom", "Bull Frog Moan", "Rainbow Dreams", "Feelin' My Way", "Eddie's Twister", "Really Blue", "Penn Beach Blues", "Wild Dog", "Pretty Trix", "A Mug of Ale", "Apple Blossoms", "Beating the Dog", "To To Blues", "Running Ragged", "Kicking the Cat", "Cheese and Crackers", "Doin' Things", "Blue Guitars", "Guitar Blues" with Lonnie Johnson, "Hot Fingers", "Have to Change Keys to Play These Blues", "A Handful of Riffs", "Blue Room", "Deep Minor Rhythm Stomp", "Two-Tone Stomp". "Midnight Call Blues", "Four String Joe", "Goin' Home", and "Pickin' My Way" with Carl Kress.[14]



  • Stringing the Blues with Joe Venuti (CBS, 1962)
  • Jazz Guitar Virtuoso (Yazoo, 1977)
  • A Handful of Riffs (ASV/Living Era, 1989)
  • Pioneers of Jazz Guitar 1927–1938 (Yazoo, 1992)
  • Blue Guitars, Vols. 1 & 2 with Lonnie Johnson (BGO, 1997)
  • The Quintessential Eddie Lang (Timeless, 1998)
  • The New York Sessions 1926–1935 with Joe Venuti (JSP, 2003)
  • The Classic Columbia and Okeh Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang (Mosaic, 2002)
  • 1927–1932 (Chronological Classics, 2004)[5]


Song Musicians Recording date Label
Stringin' the Blues Joe Venuti November 8, 1926
Hurricane Red Nichols and His Five Pennies January 12, 1927
Wild Cat Joe Venuti January 24, 1927 Okeh
Sunshine Joe Venuti January 24, 1927 Okeh
Singin' the Blues Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer February 4, 1927 Okeh
April Kisses b/w Eddie's Twister April 1, 1927 Okeh
Doin' Things Joe Venuti May 4, 1927
Goin' Places Joe Venuti May 4, 1927
For No Reason at All in C Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer May 13, 1927 Okeh, Columbia, Parlophone
Beating the Dog Joe Venuti, Adrian Rollini June 28, 1927 Okeh
Wringin' an' Twistin' Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer September 17, 1927 OKeh
Perfect Frank Signorelli October 21, 1927 Okeh
Four String Joe Joe Venuti's Blue Four November 15, 1927
Guitar Blues Lonnie Johnson May 7, 1929 Okeh
Knockin' a Jug Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden March 5, 1929
Kitchen Man Bessie Smith May 8, 1929
A Bench in the Park Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra March 21, 1930
Georgia on My Mind Hoagy Carmichael, Bix Beiderbecke September 15, 1930 Victor
Pickin' My Way Carl Kress January 15, 1932 Brunswick
Feelin' My Way Carl Kress January 17, 1932 Brunswick
Please Bing Crosby September 16, 1932
Jigsaw Puzzle Blues Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang's Blue Five February 28, 1933


  • Berend, Dave. Seven Original Compositions for the Guitar by the Great Eddie Lang: Transcribed and Arranged for Plectrum Guitar Solos with Guitar Accompaniment. Robbins Music, 1961.
  • Mazzoletti, Adriano. Eddie Lang: Stringin' the Blues. Rome, Italy: Pantheon Editore, 1997.
  • Peters, Mike. The Classic Columbia and Okeh Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang Sessions. Notes by Mike Peters, Marty Grosz, Richard M. Sudhalter, Scott Wenzel. Mosaic Records, 2002.
  • Sallis, James, editor. Jazz Guitar: An Anthology. Quill Publishers, 1984.
  • Worsfold, Sally-Ann. The Quintessential Eddie Lang, 1925–1932. Timeless Records, 1997.


  1. ^ Ferguson, Jim (1983). Father of Jazz Guitar. GPI Publications. pp. 78–86.
  2. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott (2003). Jazz on Record. San Francisco, California: Backbeat. p. 94. ISBN 0-87930-755-2.
  3. ^ a b Lyttelton, Humphrey (1998). The Best of Jazz. Robson Books. pp. 139–140. ISBN 1-86105-187-5.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i McQuade, Martin (21 October 2016). "The Musical Partnership of Eddie Lang and Bing Crosby". GuitarPlayer.com. Archived from the original on 2016-10-23. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
  6. ^ a b Obrecht, Jay (December 2015). "The Lonnie Johnson-Eddie Lang Duets". Guitar Player. pp. 26–30, 140.
  7. ^ a b Sallis, James (1982). The Guitar Players: One Instrument and its Masters in American Music (1 ed.). New York: Quill. ISBN 0688015387.
  8. ^ a b c Mandell, David (November 2001). "Jazz and Otolaryngology: The Death of Guitarist Eddie Lang". The Laryngoscope. 111 (11 Pt 1): 1980–1983. doi:10.1097/00005537-200111000-00021. PMID 11801982. S2CID 42371951. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  9. ^ "The Guitarist George Harrison Called "Pretty Hot"". Far Out Magazine. 8 October 2023. Retrieved 2023-10-24.
  10. ^ Berendt, Joachim (1976). The Jazz Book (4 ed.). St. Albans: Paladin. p. 268. ISBN 0586082603.
  11. ^ "Music Greats Added To Jazz Wall Of Fame". Ascap. June 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  12. ^ Farnsworth, Taylor (October 19, 2016). "Eddie Lang mural installed at 7th and Fitzwater, to be dedicated on Sunday". Passyunk Post. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
  13. ^ "Eddie Lang Day in Philadelphia - Official Website". eddielangdayinphiladelphia.blogspot.com. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  14. ^ "Eddie Lang". Red Hot Jazz Archive. 12 April 2020. Retrieved 12 April 2020.

External links[edit]