The Ten Greatest Guitar Players You’ve Never Heard Of, Part 1: Tiny Grimes

Tiny Grimes

Photo by Peter Riley

I’d call Tiny the master of the six string. But his guitar only had four strings; a rare tenor guitar. And he could make it smoke. Tiny’s playing and songwriting became the bridge that lead to — and some would say gave birth to — rock and roll.

As one of the earliest electric guitarists, Tiny had impeccable phrasing and a great sense of humor in his style. He was a sideman for all the famous players of the times; you could find him on many sides by legendary horn player Charlie Parker and he recorded with Billie Holiday. He had his own band briefly on the ’40s — Tiny Grimes and his Rocking Highlanders. Their records included songs later covered by Louis Jordan and were obviously very swing influenced. But perhaps the most interesting thing about this band: they wore kilts. You can see it on the cover of their record.

An all African-American band. In the forties. Wearing kilts. Needless to say, this was a man who had a unique style.

Tiny co-headlined the Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland on March 21, 1952. The event was promoted by Alan Freed and has been cited as the first rock and roll concert in history.

Grimes has achieved cult status among guitar players, and you can hear quotes of his phrasing in many songs. But to check out his playing, try this YouTube classic, “Ho Ho Ho.” And in case you’re wondering, this ain’t about Santa Claus.

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2 Responses to The Ten Greatest Guitar Players You’ve Never Heard Of, Part 1: Tiny Grimes

  1. Great post, Mike. As an accomplished blues artist yourself, it’s nice to hear your informed recommendations of those who influenced the genre.

    I’m looking forward to more installments.

  2. Sugel says:

    was an American jazz and R&B guitarist . He was a member of the Art Tatum Trio from 1943 to 1944, was a backing musician on recording sessions, and later led his own bands, including a recording session with Charlie Parker . He is notable for playing the tenor guitar , a four-stringed electric instrument.

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