Producer John Hammond: Our Complete Charlie Christian Interview

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by JasO, May 21, 2011.

  1. JasO

    JasO Member

    Oct 8, 2010
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I’ve just posted the companion piece to my Benny Goodman interview about Charlie Christian. In this previously unpublished Q/A, legendary producer John Hammond provides interesting recollections about meeting Charlie in Oklahoma City, where Charlie’s mother was working as a chambermaid in the hotel where Hammond was staying. With some difficulty, Hammond recalled, he talked his brother-in-law Benny Goodman into paying Charlie’s way to Los Angeles in August 1939 and then had to sneak the guitarist onto the bandstand while Benny was having dinner. As John tells it, “We set up the amplifier on the bandstand – luckily, there was an electrical outlet there. And poor Benny got up and got back to the stand and saw Charlie Christian there. He just had a fit! He beat off ‘Rose Room’ – I guess he figured maybe Charlie wouldn’t know ‘Rose Room.’ And if Charlie didn’t know ‘Rose Room,’ you’d never guess it, because 47 minutes later – that’s how long ‘Rose Room’ lasted. I think that was probably the most explosive session I ever heard with Benny’s group.”

    Asked if there were any important jazzers playing electric guitar before Charlie joined Goodman, Hammond said, “Yeah, there were two. One was Leonard Ware in New York. I had him on my Spirituals to Swing concert, in 1938, but unfortunately the machine in which he recorded had a ‘wow’ in it, so we were never able to put those things out. He was very good, but he was not in Charlie’s class. Charlie was an original. There’s never been anybody like Charlie on the guitar. He was a complete revolutionary. The other jazz guitar player was Floyd Smith, but he played a Hawaiian guitar, you know. And Hawaiian guitar is bad enough, but amplified, it was excruciating!”

    Hammond also covered a darker side of Goodman’s relationship with Christian, claiming that Charlie, in fact, was the sole composer of “Flying Home,” and that Goodman basically abandoned the guitarist once he became too ill to perform with the Sextet. In a lighter moment, Hammond described Charlie as a “wonderful” and “pretty naïve” guy, and added, “The two great guitar players in jazz, for my dough, were Eddie Lang and Charlie Christian. And they couldn’t have been more different, but they were both complete originals.”

    You can read our whole conversation here:
  2. Cuthbert

    Cuthbert Member

    Sep 25, 2007
    Another home run, thanks.
  3. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    western ma
  4. Aaron Mayo

    Aaron Mayo Member

    Feb 26, 2006
    MA, USA
    that's fantastic! Thank you.
  5. clemduolian

    clemduolian Silver Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2005
    Mouton, Charente, France
    Jas, as always, you rawk, SO hard. John Hammond had one of the greatest sets of ears in the history of the music biz (I think THE best). Thanks for this from a HUGE JH Sr. fan.

    Geoff aka clem
  6. hawkeyeinexile

    hawkeyeinexile Member

    Sep 1, 2002
    WayOutWest (Santa Clara, CA (not Canada))
    am diggin' the xtra links, too, like Saunders King...

  7. Neer

    Neer Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2007
    More reasons to loathe Benny Goodman. He was despicable.

    Thanks for the article!

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