A new book about Charlie Christian reinforces his position and the first ‘guitar god’

Great State
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OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA -- As famous as he is now, no one ever filmed Charlie Christian playing the electric guitar.

All we have are sound recordings and still pictures of the kid from Oklahoma City who took the jazz world by storm from 1939 to 1941.

"He was so far ahead of his time," says historian and author Anita Arnold.

"It's kind of difficult to imagine what he would have been (had he lived longer) because he was it when he was alive."

Arnold has written five different books about the life of Christian: his birth in Bonham, Texas, how his blind father and two older brothers would take him busking on the streets of Oklahoma City.

"All of them were musical," points out Arnold. "But Charlie was different. He was special."

He played trumpet, but the guitar became his instrument, playing clubs in the Deep Duece, then with the Benny Goodman Orchestra on a national scale.

Music historians credit Charlie with helping bring the guitar from a background instrument to its present feature solo position.

Anita says, "Before the next person figured out what he already knew it was two years after he died, and that was Django Reinhardt."

Arnold wanted her latest book to include his legacy, the people who came after who copied his style.

The Charlie Christian Jazz Festival brought in many of his musical descendants over the years.

What we wouldn't give for a few seconds of film to study his technique.

What we're left with is 25 years out of 100, a bright light that shines on in the fingers of thousands of guitar players still trying to play like he did.

"Most candles burn out," says Arnold. "His is like the eternal flame."

If you're interested in the new book about Charlie Christian, his new legacy book is available for order through BLAC Inc. in Oklahoma city.

The website there is www.blacinc.org

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