THE SALT OF THE EARTH

1930s-1940s
Boogie-woogie piano

Piano blues was a genre that was very popular during the 1930s and 1940s, a style that mixed well with swing and big band jazz. Boogie-woogie is a term used for the start of the development of rhythm and blues (and eventually rock & roll) out of swing music. Pianists like Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons made a career out of playing boogie-woogie piano. These musicians were the biggest influences on pianist Ian Stewart, who helped forged the Stones' initial musical style and sound.
 
 

ALBERT AMMONS  (1907-1949)

Born in Chicago, Albert Ammons was an extraordinary blues pianist of his time, a first-class exponent of boogie-woogie in the 1930s and '40s, along with Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. He was the biggest influence on Ian Stewart's style of playing. Stewart later covered some of his material with his band Rocket 88.

I'd always wanted to play this style of piano, 'cause I'd always been potty on Albert Ammons.

                                                   - Ian Stewart


I met Stu. He was with Brian. They'd just met. He used to play boogie-woogie piano in jazz clubs, apart from his regular job. He blew my head off too, when he started to play. I never heard a white piano like that before. Real Albert Ammons stuff. This is all '62.

                                                   - Keith Richards, 1971

 

JOHNNIE JOHNSON  (1924-2005)

Although recording only in the 1950s, Johnson was Chuck Berry's boogie-woogie pianist throughout the era in the 1950s when Berry recorded most of his hits, and many musicians have made it a point, Keith chief among them, that what Berry basically did to form his style was to adapt Johnson's piano patterns to the guitar. Keith's organizing of, and including Johnson in, the Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll Chuck Berry tribute film/concert/record in 1986 helped rehabilitate Johnson's career. Keith also used Johnson on his first solo album Talk Is Cheap, and contributed to Johnson's 1991 album, Johnnie B. Bad.
 
 

PETE JOHNSON  (1904-1967)

Born in Kansas City, Johnson was another great boogie-woogie pianist who helped popularize the genre in his hometown in the 1930s in particular. He would often perform with Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. In the 1950s, he suffered a stroke and stopped playing. Ian Stewart covered a lot of his recordings on Rocket 88 albums.


Written by Ian McPherson, 2000.
Like all files on Time Is On Our Side, it is the exclusive intellectual property
of Ian McPherson and cannot be duplicated, in any form, without his authorization.

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