Thursday, March 29, 2018

Picking The Guitar

Nick Lucas (1897 - 1982) (source: Wikipedia)
Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese (August 22, 1897 – July 28, 1982), known professionally as Nick Lucas, was the first jazz guitarist to record as a soloist. Lucas played banjo with various dance bands in the early 1920s, and in July of 1922, he made his debut recordings for Pathé with Picking the Guitar and Teasin’ the Frets, both guitar solos.  He re-recorded both sides for Brunswick the next year (and again in 1932, electrically).  Before long, he was making vocal records for Brunswick as the Crooning Troubadour accompanied by his own guitar, sometimes with a piano or orchestra. In 1929, Lucas appeared in the talking picture Gold Diggers of Broadway, introducing Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips with Me, which he also made a hit on record. In 1930 and ’31, he recorded with his own band, the Crooning Troubadours, and the following year he made some recordings for Hit of the Week.  Lucas’ fame faded in the 1930s, but he continued to perform. In the 1940s he made a few Soundies, followed by some Snader Telescriptions in 1951.  Lucas experienced a resurgence in popularity late 1960s after he had appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1969, and in 1974 he performed several songs for the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby movie.  After enjoying a career that spanned more than half a century, Nick Lucas died of pneumonia in 1982. (excerpted info from this source)
Nick Lucas picking the guitar (YouTube still)
Here I'll set focus on Nick Lucas' guitar playing and leave the singing troubadour to others (- learn more about Lucas' career at the official website, here). As mentioned above, Lucas had his recording debut featuring two guitar solos in July, 1922. I'll insert both solos below, as they are considered the first ever recorded jazz guitar solos. Eddie Lang may be the Father of Jazz Guitar, but Nick Lucas then may be the Grandfather of Jazz Guitar, as he preceded Lang as a recording guitar player with at least three years (- if you count Lang's 1925 guitar work with McKenzie's Candy Kids  in  Best Black (Vocalion, A 14978) as his registered first jazz guitar solo). - Here is first Nick Lucas' Picking The Guitar as recorded for Pathé Actuelle in July 1922

The flip-side of the 1922 Pathe Actuelle Record 020794 had Lucas' recording of Teasing The Frets

Today it's hard to recognize Nick Lucas' two initial guitar solos as jazz guitar playing, nevertheless Lucas was an influental figure in the development of the plectrum guitar picking technique which helped early jazz guitar pioneers like Eddie Lang to switch from tenor banjo to the guitar. Besides recording as the singing troubadour Nick Lucas also wrote several guitar method folios that inspired other musicians to take up the plectrum guitar
Nick Lucas Guitar Method Vol. 1
A contemporary guitarist, Jake Sanders, has arranged some of Nick Lucas' guitar pieces which were not recorded by Lucas himself, but are included in one or more of his published guitar method folios. There are four Nick Lucas arrangements included in Jake Sanders' recently issued CD album, shown below
Jake Sanders, Estrellas de Radio (Jalopy Records, JRCD003, 2018)
Learn more about Jake Sanders and the shown CD here. - To end this small review of Nick Lucas the guitar player, here is Jake Sanders' version of Lucas' Picking The Guitar (- not included at the shown CD) from a live gig performance featuring Jake Sanders in a trio setting


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