"Guitar Boogie" is a guitar instrumental recorded by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. In 1948, the song became a hit, eventually selling nearly three million copies. Since then, "Guitar Boogie" has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of musical performers and has been among the songs "often cited as the first rock & roll song".
"Guitar Boogie" is an uptempo twelve-bar boogie-style instrumental that features Arthur Smith on guitar backed by a small combo. The song is patterned after older boogie-woogie piano pieces (SEE FURTHER ON IN THIS POST) and, throughout the song, Smith alternates between boogie rhythmic patterns and soloing. He first recorded "Guitar Boogie" in September 1944 with the Tennessee Ramblers and it was released in 1945 as "The Rambler Trio featuring Arthur Smith" (Super Disc 1004A).
In 1948, the same master was released on MGM Records (MGM #10293) as "Arthur (Guitar Boogie) Smith and His Cracker-Jacks".
In 1949, "Guitar Boogie" reached #8 during a stay of seven weeks in the Country chart and #25 in the Pop chart.
(c) Super-Sonics 1953 ("New Guitar Boogie Shuffle" )
Released on Rainbow #214
(c) Esquire Boys 1953 ("Guitar Boogie Shuffle")
Released on Nickelodeon #102A
(c) Virtues 1959 ("Guitar Boogie Shuffle")
(c) Bert Weedon 1959 ("Guitar Boogie Shuffle")
(c) Shadows 1961 ("Shadoogie")
Released on the album "The Shadows"
(c) Rene and his Alligators 1962 ("Guitar Boogie")
Tune of Dutch weekly radio-show "Het Steenen Tijdperk".
Released on the Fontana-label (#266 345 TF)
As I said above, Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie" is patterned after older boogie-woogie piano pieces. specifically Blind Roosevelt Graves' guitar part in "Guitar Boogie".
Recorded in Richmond, IN. Friday, September 20, 1929
-Roosevelt Graves: Vocals & Guitar
-Uaroy Graves: Tambourine
-Baby Jay (James): Cornet
-Will Ezell: Piano
On all his recordings he played with his brother Uaroy (or Aaron) Graves, who was also nearly blind and played the tambourine. They were credited as "Blind Roosevelt Graves and His Brother". Their first recordings were made in 1929 for Paramount Records.
Pianist Will Ezell, who worked for Paramount as a session musician and scout in addition to being a recording artist in his own right, essentially supervised the 1929 session, which also featured the talents of cornetist Baby Jay, an associate of his. The combination of guitar, tambourine, piano, and cornet gives these tunes a unique sound, but we can not deny that "Guitar Boogie" (especially the piano part) was inspired by a race hit from the year before: "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie"
Pine Top Smith recorded "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" on December 29, 1928 in Chicago IL.
It was released on the Vocalion-label (1245)
Much of "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" consists of spoken instructions on how to dance the boogie-woogie: "Hold yourself, now! Stop! Shake that thing!" But nearly all of it rides an ascending walking bass pattern—four doubled notes, eight beats to the bar—similar to the one in "New Orleans
Hop Scop Blues" (or, for that matter, to the one in Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up").
Pine Top Smith borrowed the trilled opening of "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" from Hersal Thomas's piano introduction on Sippie Wallace's 1926 recording of "Special Delivery Blues", which features Louis Armstrong on cornet.
He took the main theme—a treble figure repeated over the walking bass—from a motif that appears near the end (at 1 min and 42 seconds) of Jimmy Blythe's 1925 recording of "Jimmie Blues".
Released July 1925 on Paramount 12304
"Jimmie Blues" was written by James Blythe and Aletha Dickerson.
Aletha also co-wrote (with John Bishaw) the B-side "Fat Meat and Greens" (which was covered by Jelly Roll Morton for Vocalion in 1926).
The same theme was published as part of the "Syncophonic" series of piano solos by Axel Christensen, a Danish-American pianist from Chicago, who ran a nationwide chain of ragtime schools.
But already in April 1924 Jimmy Blythe had recorded that Boogie Woogie theme in Chicago, IL. as "Chicago Stomp"
Released on the B-side of Paramount 12207.
And in the same year Axel Christensen published Blythe's "Chicago Stomp" under his own name, crediting Blythe as his co-composer, republishing it as "Walking Blues".
Later, in December 1927, Axel recorded the sheet music version of “Walking Blues” as a piano solo, on Paramount 20603, without composer credits.
And in 1927 Christensen republished it as "Boogie Woogie Blues", without crediting Blythe at all.
(For another theme in "Syncophonic No. 4", Christensen used Blythe's 1924 piano roll of George Thomas's "Underworld Blues", which was used much later in "The Hucklebuck". (I made another entry on my blog for that song)