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112 THE INSTRUMENTS, THE SOUNDS, THE PERFORMERS
recording duets with Lonnie Johnson (under the pseudonym of "Blind Willie Dunn", presumably a more authentic name than Eddie Lang for the 'race record" market), in duos and quartets with Venuti, and innumerable sides with the small jazz groups and large commercial orchestras such as Whiteman's and Gold-kette's, Lang became one of the most accessible artists on wax; his early death in 1933 left a void that was never filled. At a time when guitarists were strumming simple, unaltered chords, Lang not only expanded the harmonic horizon but developed a single-string solo technique that was a decade ahead of its time, for not until 1939, with the advent of Charlie Christian and the electric amplifier, did the guitar step permanently out of the shadows of the rhythm section.
There were others who accomplished the difficult task of transferring the language of Lang to their own guitars: Carl Kress and the late Dick McDonough were among the most talented, devising well-meshed duets more noteworthy for their slickness than for intensity or depth; George Van Eps and others of that well known plectrist family were early arrivals, but none quite captured the spark that had radiated from Lang.
In the six years that separated Lang's death from the so-called Christian Era of the electric guitar, there were only half a dozen guitarists who left footprints that are still discernible. Two were strictly rhythm guitarists-Eddie Condon, whose banjo or guitar livened many a small-combo jam session but has never yet been heard in a solo role, and Freddie Greene, whose imperative, rocksteady rhythm was tied like a tugboat to the Basie liner not long after it docked in New York. After twenty years with Basie, Greene is still considered unique in his class and still has never taken anything more than a momentary or inadvertent solo. The other four were solo guitarists: Teddy Bunn lent zest, humor and a beat to the unique combo called the Spirits of Rhythm, featuring guitars and tiples (smaller instruments of the guitar family). Al Casey, a courtier in the Fats Waller palace, stood ia a corner while the leader played piano, sang and clowned, but in his occasional short solos revealed an unprecedentedly smooth single-string solo style, and on his only solo record with Fats, the memorable Buck Jumping, evidenced a mastery of both chord