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CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
 
 

This Texas native began as a teenage pianist in Oklahoma, but switched to amplified guitar in 1937 after studying with Eddie Durham, the inventor of the instrument. Record producer John Hammond, who had already discovered Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and others, heard about the young guitarist and arranged for him to try out for Goodman's band. The audition led to two years with the Benny Goodman Sextet, some solos with Goodman's big band, and chances to jam at Minton's Playhouse, the cradle of bebop, with such stars of the new music as Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. Sadly, he developed tuberculosis, and he died in 1942 at only 25 years old. However, as the first important player of the electric guitar, he changed the face of popular music, not just in jazz but in other styles of music. Although Charlie Christian died much too young, the work he did for the guitar in his short life has influenced all types of guitarists, especially in jazz, for over half a century.