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Celebrating The Birthday Of Wes Montgomery

Salem State Archives

This week on 12th Street Jump we celebrate the birthday of guitar great Wes Montgomery with our special guest Danny Embrey. On the lighter side, Dr. Pearl is on the clock dishing out some advice and Serena’s School for Scat reminds us all how convoluted some politicians and celebrities talk.

Wes Montgomery is often recognized, alongside Django Reinhardtand Charlie Christian, as one of the greatest and most influential jazz guitarists in history. Born in 1929 in Indianapolis, IN, he struggled with learning to read music. He switched from the 4-string guitar to a 6-string in his early 20's, and gradually taught himself to play by ear, developing a unique talent and style.  

Montgomery got his start due to his knack for mimicking the guitar solos of Charlie Christian, his biggest influence. He then fluctuated between playing with various groups, including the Mastersounds with his two brothers, and playing in clubs in Indianapolis. In 1959, he was signed to Riverside Records, with whom he produced the two records many critics regard as his best work, The Wes Montgomery Trio and The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery. He quickly gained attention and respect with jazz musicians and audiences, and spent several years touring and playing with various groups, including his own trio.

After Riverside Records went bankrupt, Montgomery's career took a slightly controversial turn as he was recruited to play on more mainstream, pop records. However, Montgomery was an innovative force, no matter the context. His sound paved the way for jazz guitar playing, and remains the quintessential jazz guitar sound for many players.

Find a song list from this week below, and sample some of the records, in videos via Youtube. 








Road Song

Gone With The Wind

You’re Everything

If You Could See Me Now

Con Alma

Dearly Beloved


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