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Guitar Boogie (song)

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"Guitar Boogie"
Single by the Rambler Trio featuring Arthur Smith
B-side"Beaty Steel Blues"
ReleasedPrior to January 5, 1946 (1946-01-05)[1]
RecordedPrior to September 15, 1945[2]
GenreHillbilly boogie
LabelSuper Disc
Songwriter(s)Arthur Smith

"Guitar Boogie" is a guitar instrumental recorded by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith in 1945. It was one of the first recordings in the style later dubbed "hillbilly boogie" to reach a widespread audience, and eventually sold nearly three million copies.[3] It was the first guitar instrumental to climb the country music charts, and then crossover and also gain high rankings on the popular music charts.[4] "Guitar Boogie" has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of musicians. It is among the songs discussed as the first rock and roll record.[3]

Original song[edit]

"Guitar Boogie" is an uptempo twelve-bar boogie-style instrumental and is patterned after older boogie-woogie piano pieces. Roosevelt Graves and His Brother recorded an instrumental "Guitar Boogie" in 1929, which was issued by Paramount Records.[5] It features a descending arpeggio based on "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie", a piano-based piece recorded by Pinetop Smith in 1928.[6] Music historian Larry Birnbaum describes it as "not the same as Arthur Smith's country hit by the same title".[5]

In his version, Smith performs the piano parts on guitar, alternating between boogie rhythmic patterns and soloing. Originally a jazz musician, Smith explained, "I guess I picked that [boogie-woogie] from Tommy Dorsey's 'Boogie Woogie', 'cause I didn't listen to country or blues, I listened to big band in those days".[5] Smith first recorded "Guitar Boogie" in 1945 with the Rambler Trio, with Don Reno on rhythm guitar and Roy Lear on bass. There has been conflicting information on the type of guitar Smith used for the recording; several sources identify it as an acoustic guitar[7][8][9] and others as an electric guitar.[10][11][12] The piece was released under the name "the Rambler Trio featuring Arthur Smith" by the independent Super Disc Records label. Regionally "Guitar Boogie" did well, due in part to Smith's appearances on popular radio programs, such as Charlotte, North Carolina WBT's Carolina Hayride.

In October 1948, MGM Records (which had purchased Super Disc and Smith's contract) re-released the instrumental under the name "Arthur (Guitar Boogie) Smith and His Cracker-Jacks".[13] By 1949, "Guitar Boogie" reached number eight during a stay of seven weeks on the Hot Country Songs chart and number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[14] making it "the first guitar instrumental to climb the Country charts [then] crossover, and climb the Pop Charts".[4] As an early popular example of hillbilly boogie, it is a link between 1940s Western swing and honky-tonk and 1950s rockabilly.[5]

Guitar Boogie Shuffle[edit]

In the 1950s, rock and roll versions of "Guitar Boogie", usually titled "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" (but credited to Arthur Smith), were recorded. AllMusic critic Bruce Eder describes these renditions as having "new accents and a beat that took it out of country boogie and Western swing".[15] In 1953, a version by the Super-Sonics was titled "New Guitar Boogie Shuffle"[16] and another by the Esquire Boys with Danny Cedrone on guitar was titled "Guitar Boogie Shuffle".[17] In 1958, a Philadelphia band, Frank Virtue and the Virtues, recorded it as "Guitar Boogie Shuffle".[18] In 1959, the Virtues' single reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 27 on the Hot R&B Sides chart, which Eder calls "one of the most popular and influential instrumentals of its era".[15] Also in 1959, a version of "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" by Bert Weedon backed with "Bert's Boogie"[19] reached number ten in the UK charts.[20] A version of "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" (simply titled "Guitar Boogie") by New Zealand musician Peter Posa became a bit hit in his native country in 1962. Ten years later, a rendition appeared on the Ventures' 1972 album, Rock & Roll Forever[21] with Harvey Mandel guesting on lead guitar.

Recordings by others[edit]

Numerous guitarists have interpreted and recorded "Guitar Boogie". Early versions of the song include those by the Les Paul Trio (1947)[22] and Alvino Rey (1946 and 1948).[23] In 1958, a different song titled "Guitar Boogie", with more chording and very different breaks, was included on Chuck Berry's second album One Dozen Berrys. (Jeff Beck, then with the Yardbirds later based his "Jeff's Boogie" on Berry's version). Freddie King's 1960 blues guitar instrumental "Hide Away" incorporates elements from various songs, including sections similar to those in "Guitar Boogie". Later renditions of "Guitar Boogie" include live versions by Tommy Emmanuel and Tom Petty.


  1. ^ "Guitar Boogie" first appeared in the "Record Review" section of Billboard January 5, 1946.
  2. ^ "Guitar Boogie" was included in an "Advance Record Releases" section of Billboard September 15, 1945, that generally precedes the actual releases about two weeks.
  3. ^ a b Harris, Craig. "Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Smith, Clay (2013). "Arthur Smith – Living Legend". Exhibit, The North Carolina Visitor Center. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Birnbaum, Larry (2012). Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock 'n' Roll. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. pp. 108, 222. ISBN 978-0-8108-8629-2.
  6. ^ Silvester, Peter J. (2009). The Story of Boogie Woogie: A Left Hand Like God. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press. p. 269. ISBN 978-0810869332.
  7. ^ Samuelson, Dave (2004). Kingsbury, Paul (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Country Music: The Ultimate Guide to the Music. Oxford University Press US. p. 489. ISBN 978-0-19-517608-7.
  8. ^ Malone, Bill C. (2002). Country Music, U.S.A. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-292-75262-7.
  9. ^ Manus, Ron; Manus, Morton (1994). The Complete Acoustic Guitarist. Alfred Music. p. 91.
  10. ^ Carlin, Bob (2004). String Bands in the North Carolina Piedmont. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 179.
  11. ^ Ingram, Adrian (2010). A Concise History of the Electric Guitar. Mel Bay. p. 23.
  12. ^ Harrington, Joe S. (2002). Sonic Cool: The Life & Death of Rock 'n' Roll. Hal Leonard. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-634-02861-8.
  13. ^ Although Craig Smith has written that "Guitar Boogie" was re-recorded for MGM, most sources, including Birnbaum, Dawson and Propes, McNeil, and Billboard, indicate that the 1945 recording was re-released by MGM in 1948.
  14. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits. Billboard Books. p. 317. ISBN 978-0-8230-8291-9.
  15. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "The Virtues – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  16. ^ Rainbow R–4097
  17. ^ Nickelodeon 102–A
  18. ^ Hunt 324
  19. ^ Top Rank JAR 117
  20. ^ "Discography". The Official Bert Weedon Website. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  21. ^ UAS 5649
  22. ^ Decca 29013
  23. ^ Capitol 318 and 15223