Nick Lucas! Born: Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese, August 22, 1897, Newark, New Jersey
(my opinion) Nick Lucas was the grandfather of jazz guitar. He was the first major American performer to sing and play guitar at a high level. His singing is not to everyone's taste, but it was trained and always on key. His guitar playing was spectacular. He grew up on classical music, Italian folk music and probably heard a lot of gypsies as well. When jazz began, he took the chordal style of jazz piano and adapted it to guitar.... thus, the jazz chord was born. He had a great walking bass and chord style, using his thumb for the moving bass. His runs were lightening fast and phenomenally articulate. Eddie Lang (the father of jazz guitar) cited him as a major influence. He played almost entirely with down strokes, reminiscent of rest stroke picking. He was so good that Gibson begged him to let them build a signature model. Many historians say that the guitar may have gone extinct were it not for Nick Lucas. Sales of guitars wee dropping off as Broadway, Jazz , light opera and classical dominated the new media of radio. Nick Lucas inspired countless musicians to buy guitars (then considered mainly a folk instrument) and adapt banjo and piano music to the 6 sting. The Nick Lucas model guitar was an excellent round hole acoustic that remained popular for generations - Bob Dylan played one, among many others. His songs were incredible hits. He was featured in some of the first musical films (including Busby Berkely's great "Gold Diggers" - he was another genius). He published several books on playing guitar that informed millions, including Joe Pass and Doc Watson.
So, what happened - why was he forgotten? Well, musical tastes changed. Record companies forced out the older players to sell new records from younger players.... same old story. But, one unique aspect affected Nick Lucas has to be considered. In the 60's, Tiny Tim (a huge Nick Lucas fan) began a fairly popular novelty career mimicking Nick Lucas's songs. Tiny Tim was... just plain weird. Nick Lucas appreciated Tim and they were friends, but Tiny Tim almost single-handedly blemished Nick Lucas' reputation. His exaggerated falsetto, effeminate mannerisms, pale make-up, side-show marriage to a much younger girl and ukulele strumming (he was also a fan of" Ukulele Ike", Cliff Edwards) left the impression in the minds of a generation that Nick Lucas, whose signature song was "Tip-toe Through The Tulips" was an odd novelty.
Perhaps most insultingly, his landmark guitar instrumental compositions, "Picking the Guitar" and "Teasing the Frets" the atom splitting moments in the founding of jazz guitar, were left out of Mel bay's Masters of the Plectrum Guitar and no transcriptions are available in print or online int he year 2012.
Eddie Lang was a Nick Lucas fan, Django was a Nick Lucas fan.... let's restore his legacy. Here is a link to the (fairly) new Nick Lucas tribute website: http://www.nicklucas.com/
Here are some youtube videos:
Here is Nick Lucas on the Liberace Show - you can clearly see him play all but part of the best break on his signature song... lots of opportunity to learn from this video... really top notch piano as well:
http://archive.org/details/theLiberaceS ... sonalities
Here is the (almost complete) Nick Lucas Collection from 1925 - 34:
http://archive.org/details/NickLucasCol ... s1925-1934
You can listen to or download all of these songs for free - 136 songs!
From Wiki: "In 1922, at the age of 25, he gained renown with his hit renditions of "Picking the Guitar" and "Teasing the Frets" for Pathe Records. In 1923, the Gibson Guitars proposed to build him a concert guitar with an extra deep body. Known as the "Nick Lucas Special," it has been a popular model with guitarists since. In the same year, he began a successful career in recording phonograph records for Brunswick and remained one of their exclusive artists until 1932.
By the late 1920s, Lucas had become well known as "The Crooning Troubadour" due to the success of the recordings he made for Brunswick Records. In 1929, he co-starred in the Warner Brothers Technicolor musical, Gold Diggers of Broadway, in which he introduced the two hit songs "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" and "Tiptoe Through the Tulips". The latter became Lucas' official theme song. The same year, Lucas was also featured in the studio's all-star revue, The Show of Shows. Lucas turned down Warner Bros.' seven-year contract offer, which went instead to fellow crooner Dick Powell.
In April 1930, Warner Bros. bought Brunswick Records. Due to their appreciation of Nick Lucas, Warner Bros. provided him with his own orchestra which was billed on his records as "The Crooning Troubadours". This arrangement lasted until December 1931, when Warner Bros. licensed Brunswick to the American Record Corporation. The new owners were not as extravagant as Warner Bros. had previously been and Lucas lost his orchestra and eventually left Brunswick in 1932 to go freelance. He made two recordings for Durium Records in 1932 for their Hit of the Week series. These would prove to be his last major recordings."
If nothing else, give the instrumentals and songs like "Among My Souvenirs", "My Blue Heaven" "All of Me" and "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" a listen.... that is just really, really nice music!