Book Excerpt: The World of Swing
Book: The World of Swing
Page 350 - Lawrence Lucie on playing rhythm guitar and Freddie Green
"Rhythm became my function, and as compared with banjo I think guitar has more rhythm - if it's a straight guitar. It has a bigger blending sound, a little more weight, and a better blend with the bass. The banjo blended very well with the tuba, and when the tuba went out the banjo went, too. Because there were no amplifers then, when you took a guitar solo, you played it in chords, three or four notes at a time. Unless you went up to the microphone, you couldn't be heard otherwise.
"If you wanted to make it, you had to be a good rhythm man in the section then. I wanted to keep working, and I was happy playing rhythm. For one thing, I had listened so much to John Trueheart. I used to sit right near him all the time when he was with Chick Webb, and listen to Chick's rhythm section. Trueheart was a nice, easy-going guy, but he never got too much credit. I probably got more through going around and playing with different bands. Like Fred Guy with Duke, he was happy with just this one band, and he and Chick were buddies. He was like a straw boss, and if Chick wasn't on the stand to start the band (Bill Beason would substitute on drums when Chick was ill), Trueheart would start it off. Chick played a lot of solo drums, and then Trueheart helped hold the rhythm section together. Because Chick had the bass and guitar going, he didn't have to play strict rhythm. That nice right hand stroke Trueheart had helped keep the band swinging. What a band appreciates, you know, the audience doesn't always hear.
"When the electric guitar came in, the guys who were playing it naturally got more publicity. It was a solo instrument. But a guy like Freddie Green with Count Basie liked rhythm, and felt rhythm. I still like to play rhythm, and if there are two guitars on a recording session, I usually end up playing rhythm. Most of the young guitarists don't want to play anything but lead. They are not happy playing rhythm and feel as though they are being cheated of something. I like to be in a position to hold things together"
[Rhythm guitarist Lawrence Lucie playing with many famous big bands, including those of Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson.]