The first guitarist to emerge within the jazz field was Eddie Lang (1902-1933), a Philadelphia native of Italian descent. Lang’s most important impact came between 1928 and 1932 when he recorded prolifically with some of the top jazzmen of the era, including Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, the Dorsey Brothers, and Paul Whiteman’s Band. After 1932, Lang began collaborating with Bing Crosby, but died suddenly after complications from a tonsillectomy.
Another early jazz great was Lonnie Johnson (1899-1970), who collaborated with Eddie Lang in a series of classic duos. Although primarily a blues guitarist, Johnson was able to leave a rich legacy of early jazz guitar styles. Guitarists who followed in the footsteps of Lang and Johnson included Dick McDonough (1904-1939), George Barns and Teddy Bunn (1909-1978). George Van Eps (1913-1998) was instrumental in the development of chordal guitar playing.
As the guitar was beginning to gain a foothold in American jazz bands, Django Reinhardt (1910-1953), a gypsy musician in Paris, established himself and his group, the Hot Club of France, as a small but powerful exponent of European jazz making. Reinhardt was one of the most original and gifted guitarists of all time. Injured in a caravan fire, he only was able to use the thumb, index, and middle finger of his left hand. Reinhardt, along with his equally ingenious collaborator, Stephane Grappelli, made numerous recordings of jazz standards and ballads.