A Biography of Charlie Christian, Jazz Guitar’s King of Swing

Price:$279.95 + shipping
(Click the PayPal button to buy)
This is a biography on the career of jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, who was raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma during the Depression era in the Southwestern region of the United States. This book provides an in-depth analysis of the details surrounding the events that shaped Christian’s musical development, beginning with his early influences of ‘Territory bands’ and ‘western swing’ groups. The book documents Christian’s performances in the urban area of Oklahoma City on Second Street, better known as ‘Deep Deuce’, as well as his travels with both Anna Mae Winburn and the Alphonso Trent Orchestra. Christian’s discovery by producer John Hammond led to Christian’s membership in the Benny Goodman Sextet in August of 1939. The book also chronicles Christian’s most significant radio broadcasts, live performances, and recordings for Columbia Records, and also includes facts regarding Christian’s pioneering guitar style during the early 1940’s,as his performances at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem represented the connection between swing and bebop. The biography finally uncovers details into Christian’s private life, and his untimely death during the apex of the Goodman era.


“More than sixty years after his sadly premature death, Charlie Christian still has a devoted following worldwide … his influence was immense. Every jazz guitarist after him took him as an initial model, and these include Barney Kessel, Tiny Grimes, Jimmey Raney, and even Wes Montgomery and George Benson. … The result [of the authors’ collaboration] is the first in-depth biography of Christian. Written in a thoroughly engaging style, it offers interviews with friends and family members never heard from before. Clear-headed in their search for truth, the authors correct many misconceptions about Christian’s life and music.” – Lewis Porter, Associate Professor of Music, Rutgers University-Newark

“The authors make a valuable contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the great guitarist Charlie Christian. Through extensive interviews with family members, childhood friends and fellow musicians who knew him when, they throw much-needed new light on Christian’s early years in Oklahoma City before he went off to join Benny Goodman … The authors detail Christian’s tenure with Goodman, which provided the visibility that made him the most revered and influential guitarist in jazz, and go on to illuminate his deep involvement in the late night Harlem jam sessions that gave birth to the modern revolution that came to be known as bebop. In this richly researched biography, the authors provide us with many new details about Christian’s personal life as well as the final illness that led to his tragically premature death at the age of 25.” – Ross Firestone, author of Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman

“In this ground-breaking manuscript, Wayne Goins and Craig McKinney provide a most intriguing account of guitarist Charles Henry Christian’s contributions to swing and early bebop in Charlie Christian: Jazz Guitar’s King of Swing, a richly detailed story about this artist’s life and work … Goins, a guitarist and jazz educator at Kansas State University, and McKinney, an attorney and jazz enthusiast, drew material from interviews with family members and archives to weave a story that makes for fascinating reading about the swing era and one of its finest performers. The book, divided into seventeen chapters, weaves its central story about Charlie Christian throughout several related subplots, which include the influences on his musical development, career milestones, contributions to guitar performance, and his permanent influence on generations of post-bop jazz guitarists. Goins and McKinney maintain the reader’s interest by providing several chapters interspersed throughout the book that probe much deeper into a wide array of subjects that had a direct impact on both Charlie Christian’s music and the maturation of jazz itself. These diverse topics include the development of swing in the southwest (i.e., Oklahoma City and Kansas City); a section on Bob Wills and western swing; the contributions of Columbia Records producer John Hammond to jazz recording and racial integration; the rise of Benny Goodman; and the birth of bebop at Minton’s in Harlem. Overall, Goins and McKinney have penned quite a helpful and informative book. The writing is clear and logical, with a plethora of anecdotes from Christian’s family and friends.” – David M. Royse, Coordinator and Associate Professor of Music Education, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

"Goins and McKinney together [have] created the most comprehensive book on Christian." - The Topeka Capital-Journal

Table of Contents

1. Bonham, Busts, and Baseball
2. Manhood and Musicianship
3. Swingin’ the Southwest
4. Deep Deuce: Places and Personalities
5. Where did he come from?
6. Blacks, Whites and Blues
7. The Great Discovery
8. The Advent of John Hammond
9. Coast to Coast
10. Solo Flight to Harlem
11. Minton’s and Monroe’s
12. The Adventures of Charlie and Ralph
13. The Year of Charlie Christian
14. Flying Home
15. The Aftermath
16. Thoughts on Charlie Christian
17. Charlie’s Place as a Pioneer

Other Music-Jazz Books

More Books by this Author