Charlie Christian
Courtesy of the Rock Hall Library and Archive

Charlie Christian

Early Influences

Charlie Christian took electric guitar out of the rhythm section and into the spotlight.

Christian’s single-string solo technique proved that guitar could be a lead instrument and shaped a generation of bebop guitarists.


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Charlie Christian elevated the guitar as a lead instrument on par with the saxophone and trumpet in jazz and popular music.

His single-string technique established a solo style that was carried on by such contemporaries as T-Bone Walker and emulated by later disciples like B. B. King and Chuck Berry.

Born in Bonham, Texas on July 29, 1916 and raised in Oklahoma City, Christian was influenced by country music and jazz, an odd hybrid of influences that can be heard in his recorded works, such as “Seven Come Eleven,” with the Benny Goodman Sextet. Unfortunately, his recording career lasted less than two years, as he was cut down in his prime by tuberculosis on March 2, 1942 in New York.

Though his life was short, his hornlike, single-note style, which capitalized on innovations in amplification technology, revolutionized and redefined the role of the electric guitar in popular music. The reverberations from Christian’s pioneering efforts have echoed down the decades, through Western swing, rockabilly and rock and roll to the present day.

Inductee: Charlie Christian (born July 29, 1916, died March 2, 1942)

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