Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ed 'Snoozer' Quinn (1906-1952)

The name of Ed 'Snoozer' Quinn does not pop up frequently in the few historical overviews of the development of jazz guitar playing, therefore the general public interested in the subject mostly has been unaware of this legendary guitarist. In general, people interested in the development of the jazz guitar will mention Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson as the originators, next they will point out Carl Kress, Dick McDonough, Teddy Bunn, Al Casey and perhaps a couple of lesser known early American guitarplayers excelling in jazz, but only few will mention Snoozer Quinn before stating that 'the real thing' concerning jazz guitar started, when Charlie Christian entered the scene. Of course, with the back against the wall, most people also will mention Django Reinhardt as a non-American genius that paved the way for the post-Christian development of the jazz guitar, at the same time neglecting Django's great contemporary, Oscar Alemán, and at least a dozen others non-American players of the instrument, forgotten masters of a dusky past enlightened in the general American way of understanding things.
Had it not been for the personal efforts of Johnny Wiggs, trumpeter and founder of the New Orleans Jazz Club in 1946, our knowledge of Snoozer Quinn's mastering of the jazz guitar playing would not have been able to document by recordings.
Towards the end of his short life, Snoozer Quinn was hospitalizied after having contracted tuberculosis. During his stay at a New orleans hospital he was recorded by his friend and admirer, Johnny Wiggs. These recordings made on a non-professional equipment are true impromtu sessions by a master of a guitar playing style that both reflects the influence of Lang, Kress and McDonough, but nontheless is a personally developed way of playing that is unparalleled by his contemporaries.
Quinn got his nickname, 'Snoozer', when working as an accompanist to Bing Crosby during the late 1920'ies. Before this job he had been a member of Peck Kelley's Bad Boys for some time, but it was not until he was introduced to Paul Whiteman in 1929 that he would get into the spotlight for a nine month engagement with Whiteman's orchestra. During this period he was introduced to and became friends with the stars of the Whiteman organization: Bix, Tram, Tea and the rest, taking over Eddie Lang's chair and excelling amazing guitar wizardry, unfortunately not documented by recordings of the period, even though Snoozer participated in a few recording sessions by the Whiteman orchestra in 1929 - the sound of his instrument never came through to the microphone. After this short stint with the stars of New York jazz, Snoozer gradually withdraw from the music scene due to poor health, he settled in New Orleans and spent the rest of his life in oblivion until Johnny Wiggs visited and recorded him at a hospital in that city.
Some of Johnny Wiggs' personal recordings of Snoozer Quinn have been issued on a LP in 1969 (Fat Cat Jazz, 104), but to my knowledge they have not been released in the cd format, yet. Luckily, we are able to listen to Johnny Wiggs'recordings of Snoozer Quinn at the great website of the Louisiana Digital Library.
Another website dedicated to Snoozer Quinn also has audio samples from the Johnny Wiggs recordings and may be reached clicking here
Enjoy Snoozer in his rendition of "Out Of Nowhere"


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