Venuti claimed to have been born aboard a ship as his parents emigrated from Italy, though many believe he was simply born in Philadelphia. Later in life he said that he was born in Italy in 1896 and that he came to the U.S. in 1906. He became THE great jazz violinist: the father of jazz violin. Eddie Lang (who was also known as Blind Willie Dunn) was a boyhood friend of Venuti, and was the first great jazz guitarist (some say the best-ever rhythm guitarist). They preceded and influenced the legendary duo of Django Reinhardt and Stephanne Grappelli, which means they are at the root of a massive genre (gypsy jazz / hot swing).
Venuti was also a legendary practical joker. Every Christmas he sent Wingy Manone, a one-armed trumpet player, the same gift–one cufflink. He once called a couple dozen bass players with an alleged gig and asked them to show up with their instruments at a busy street corner just so he could view the resulting chaos. He always brought cheap violins to his bar-gigs because his favorite thing was to start fights, smash his violin over someone’s head, and jump out the window of the bar. He is said to have chewed up a violin he borrowed from bandleader Paul Whiteman, when still on stage after his own performance with Whiteman’s band had finished.
Eddie Lang introduced the guitar to a wider audience and forever changed the way that people listened to music. And he was the first Jazz guitar virtuoso. A boyhood friend of Joe Venuti, Lang took violin lessons for 11 years but switched to guitar before he turned professional in 1924 with the Mound City Blue Blowers. He was soon in great demand for recording dates, both in the jazz world and in pop settings. His sophisticated European sounding chord patterns made him a unique accompanist, but he was also a fine soloist. Lang was a versatile player who could back blues singers, play classical music, and jam with the greatest musicians of his day. He was the house guitarist at Okeh from 1926 to 1933. Using the pseudonym of Blind Willie Dunn, Lang often teamed up with Lonnie Johnson and recorded some of the most dazzling guitar duets you’ll hear.
Lang died in 1933 as the result of a botched tonsillectomy, which had been taken at the urging of his friend, Bing Crosby. Venuti fell into obscurity in the 1940s and ’50s, but was rediscovered in the 60s and made some great albums, some of which will find their way onto this blog eventually… if you have any of his later period albums please let me know. I’d love to hear them.
1 Goin’ Places – Lang, Venuti – 2:58
2 Doin’ Things – Lang, Venuti – 2:52
3 Perfect – Lang, Signorelli – 3:04
4 Cheese and Crackers – Lang, Venuti – 2:59
5 Stringin’ the Blues – Lang, Venuti – 2:37
6 I’m Somebody’s Somebody Now – Johnson, Sherman, Silver – 3:09
7 Two-Tone Stomp – Johnson, Lang – 3:03
8 Beatin’ the Dog – Venuti – 2:41
9 The Wild Dog – Lang, Venuti – 2:45
10 Dinah – Akst, Lewis, Young – 2:51
11 In the Bottle Blues – King Oliver, Lang, Williams – 2:52
12 Wild Cat – Lang, Venuti – 2:59
13 Guitar Blues – Johnson, Lang – 3:21
14 Bull Frog Moan – Johnson, Lang – 3:19
15 Jet Black Blues – Johnson – 3:04
16 Penn Beach Blues – Lang, Venuti – 2:45
17 It’s Right Here for You – Bradford – 3:10
18 You Can’t Cheat on a Cheater – Dorsey, Napoleon – 2:59
19 Tiger Rag – DaCosta, Edwards, LaRocca … – 2:52
20 A Handful of Riffs – Johnson, Lang – 3:07
21 Running Ragged – Hayton, Lang, Trumbauer … – 3:10
22 Pardon Me, Pretty Baby – Klages, Rose – 3:07
23 I’ll Never Be the Same – Kahn, Malneck, Signorelli – 3:12
24 I’ve Found a New Baby – Palmer, Williams – 3:09
25 Little Girl – Henry, Hyde – 3:00
26 I Got Rhythm – Gershwin, Gershwin – 3:15
27 I Wanna Count Sheep (Till the Cows Come Home) – Little, Young – 3:25
28 Church Street Sobbin’ Blues – Cowley, Lada, Williams – 3:03
29 Vibraphonia – Rollini – 2:49
30 Hey! Young Fella – Fields, McHugh – 3:07
31 Some of These Days – Brooks – 2:37
32 Raggin’ the Scale – Claypoole – 3:00
more to come someday. post any you have in the comments!