Dan Summer & Kathryn Hobgood Ray l

Snoozer Quinn: Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar Pioneer

Legend has it that Ed “Snoozer” Quinn could shake your hand while playing guitar – and never miss a beat. A pioneering fingerstyle-jazz picker, he was famous in the late 1920s and ’30s, playing primarily as a sideman during the glory days of the big bands, performing with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Jack Teagarden, Paul Whiteman, and the Dorsey brothers. Sadly, while he recorded behind singers like Bee Palmer and Jimmie Davis, there’s only a few extant 1948 recordings (the year before his early death) that capture the beauty of Snoozer’s solo playing (search “Snoozer Quinn – Topic” on Youtube).

Born in 1907 in McComb, Mississippi, Quinn is a missing link between country blues guitarists like Big Bill Broonzy and early jazz guitar soloists like Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson. Yet his style is rather unique – not surprising given his time and sphere, of course. Take a listen to tracks like “Snoozer’s Telephone Blues” and you, too, will be dazzled by the sense of timeless swing.

This book shines the spotlight on Snoozer, at long last. Author Kathy Hobgood Ray is Quinn’s great-great niece (see her thoughts on Snoozer’s Gibson L-0 in this month’s “Classics” feature) and this is a smart biography; Dan Summer provides transcriptions of those ’48 tunes and musical commentary. Along with glorious photos, the result is an essential read for fans of pioneering guitarists.

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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