DURHAM Brothers Orchestra


                              Guitar legacy

EDDIE DURHAM & HIS BASE FOUR (a/k/a The Kansas City 4 & 5; Lester Young Kansas City Sessions)

click the CD for complete info/video.

These recordings, among the first to capture electric guitar on record, were originally produced by John Hammond, Sr. to showcase Durham's electric guitar. He utilized a Gibson ES-150Lester is not on the original 4 tracks, he is added on the 2nd/3rd recording dates. Durham is not on the 3rd (last) date.


March 16, 1938: John Hammond, Sr. produces the first 4 tracks: "Laughing At Life", "Good Mornin' Blues", "I Know That You Know" & "Love Me or Leave Me" - with

The All American Rhythm Section: Buck Clayton-tpt, Walter "Big Un" Page-bass, Papa Jo Jones-drums, Freddie Greene-r/guitar. Hammond sold these tracks to Milt Gabler, but "Love Me Or Leave Me" was lost, until the 1970's, then reissued. 

 GUITAR PLAYER Magazine, August 1979:



Eddie Durham's very first guitar recordings are October 1929 with The Bennie Moten Kansas City Orchestra. However, most of the personnel in Bennie Moten's Orchestra, including Eddie, emerged from

WALTER PAGE's Oklahoma Blue Devils Orchestra:


 Durham's 2nd recordings (this time on banjo), still in Kansas City, November 1929, four tracks with singer Laura Henton. (GOSPEL CLASSICS, Document Records DOCD-5190)  

EDDIE DURHAM (circa 1906-1987) one of the first to:

- to RECORD,  single-line solos, with Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra October 1929 on "BAND BOX SHUFFLE", "NEW VINE STREET BLUES" (Basie on piano) and 1930 "BOOT IT".  Note: Durham's ARRANGING tightened and modernized the section work of the Moten Orchestra. This only refers to "single line solos" on ANY guitar

-  SHOWCASE a home-made guitar AMPLIFICATION system: metal-bodied, with a homemade pie tin resonator inside and megaphones to increase its projection, a hangar (now called a whammy bar), as well as his own homemade Amplifier. He traveled with his entire set-up, which was not welcomed because it could blow out the lights in the Clubs. This only refers to an amplification system which was CREATED (not patented) by DURHAM, who performed with it - AND it being widely showcased by "himself"...

AMPLIFIED GUITAR earliest recordings:

- hear HITTIN THE BOTTLE (Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra)
September 30, 1935 Jimmie Lunceford recordings capture Durham on "HITTIN THE BOTTLE" (metal-bodied Dobro "resphonic"), Hear also "Avalon". These are the first recording of it's kind (metal-bodied Dobro "resphonic"). Lunceford also recorded Durham on "HONEY KEEP YOUR MIND ON MEfor which Durham won an All American Poll for his innovative guitar soloing.

May 29, 1935 - BIRD OF PARADISE (Ellington) Durham's Guitar & Arrangement


The late guitarist LAWRENCE LUCIE, who was a young admirer, states: "I used to go to the Savoy all the time, and the first guitar player I ever heard play single-string solo was Eddie Durham, when he came with Moten's band around 1932. He had one of those National guitars with a resonator inside it and it sounded loud and rather metallic, although there was no electrical amplifications. Eddie played very good solos on it." (Lucie was interviewed for a forthcoming documentary).

Eddie recalled: "I was playing straight guitar and was always a hit with the big bands; but they drown you out, so I'd take a straight guitar, put the mike right in its soundhole. I don't think anyone had done that before". While still in Moten's band (1929-1932), Eddie had already worked out the way of performing through a separate amplifier outside the PA system. He built the box around it, get a special amplifier and say, "Make me a box and set it in... and the things were so heavy. Now they have some very near perfect ones, but the sound isn't the same. They used to plug it into the big house set, with a jack and the cord, to your guitar and you'd get the effect of a pipe organ in church. You'd make it loud and all the people'd look 'round and say, 'Where's that sound coming from?"..."With the resonator guitar, always wanted to get vibrato. So I took a clothes hanger and I attached that to the bridge...and I used to hook it in this finger. When I'd play, I'd shake it...Now they build it in the foot pedal, anywhere. Just touch it and you got it.... But many audiences and clubs were unprepared for amplification: "A lot of people thought that was a screwy idea, having an amplified guitar, and the ballroom managers were always afraid you'd blow out their lights. There was DC current all over the place, so I'd often had trouble finding electrical outlets when I was touring with Basie." After the people that made the resonator had gone out of business, I found someone who was manufacturing an electrically amplified instrument."

Durham records electric guitar with Count Basie's Orchestra on the August 1937 sessions.


Please contact at "SwingtheBlues@yahoo.com" for exhibits of actual instruments or to license photos


 SIGNATURE Hollow-Body GUITAR, left & right handed with Eddie's signature on the frets, son Eric and daughter Marsha's signature inside the F-Hole


In 2006 "Sam Ash Music Stores" released the DURHAM SIGNATURE GUITARS,  two colors each, by "Guitar Research" 

"Eddie Durham and not the often listed guitarist, Freddie Green, plays guitar on the Teddy Wilson Brunswick session of January 6, 1938 and, again, at the Billie Holiday Vocalion session of January 12, 1938." - Phil Schaap


EDDIE DURHAM was recruited by Bennie Moten when Moten's band lost a battle of the bands to the George E. Lee Band. Eddie then recruited "Bill Basie" as his co-arranger.  Durham's recordings with The Bennie Moten Kansas City Orchestra are among the first of recordings of SINGLE LINE SOLO's on guitar.


I'm pretty sure these websites won't even mention Eddie Durham, but DurhamJazz.com gives credit where it's due:

Compare EDDIE DURHAM's  (b 1906 - d 1987)  RECORDING   dates: 

GEORGE BARNES (July 17, 1921 ? September 5, 1977)

MILTON BROWN (Sept. 7, 1903 - April 18, 1936) inspired Django Reinhardt

ALONZO "LONNIE" JOHNSON (Feb. 8, 1899 - June 16, 1970)

EDDIE LANG (Oct. 25, 1902 - March 26, 1933) aka "Blind Willie Dunn".  Youtube With LONNIE JOHNSON 1929

LESter POISFUSS (PAUL) (June 9, 1915 ? August 12, 2009)

DJANGO REINHARDT (January 23, 1910 Belgium - May 16, 1953) recorded Durham's TOPSY 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN (July 29, 1916 - March 2, 1942)  Youtube compare TOPSY by Christian


These are quotes by MICHAEL EMERY, KLRU-TV (PBS)

"Eddie Durham RECORDED his earliest ELECTRIC guitar licks two weeks after George Barnes in a jazz session of the Kansas City Five. The early bird gets the worm, they say. These guys don't get no worm or props for being the innovators of what passes for popular music today... 

...As for the earliest RESONATOR guitars, what some call "amplified guitars," George Beauchamp often gets the nod on behalf of the National Stringed Instrument Corporation, which spawned the Dobro Corporation in an internal squabble... George Beauchamp tweaked his ELECTRIC instrument, a lap guitar, into being in 1931. I also read that the earliest ELECTRIC guitar performances were in the exotic Hawaiian guitar style by Gage Brewer, a friend of the instrument's INVENTOR, in 1932. Said INVENTOR is widely acknowledged to be George Beauchamp back in 1931, and the Rickenbacker International Corporation... 

...Paul H. Tutmarc. His son firmly believes that Tutmarc INVENTED the ELECTRIC guitar firstTutmarc's successful, non-feeding-back electronic pickup was an innovative intellectual package later sold to Rickenbacker for $600 back in the day by a former collaborator. Then there is that first ELECTRIC bass, too...

Among other innovations, luthier and professional musician Lloyd Loar is credited with taking the ?-hole from the violin and attaching it to the surface of the guitar. He was relieved of his job at Gibson Guitars in the mid-1920s, and in 1933 created a new company that was renamed Vivi-Tone in 1936, set to electrify stringed instruments. There are several extant examples of Loar's electric guitar inventions...

Sometimes the title of first or best or fastest or some such superlative goes to the wrong person, but someone most of us will agree on...

But it's OK to disagree."

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