Bottleneck Guitar Style

Bottleneck guitar playing was first introduced to the U.S. in the pre-blues era by a number of Hawaiian guitarists who used a steel bar while holding the guitar in their laps, playing hulas, waltzes, and two-steps. Black southern blues guitarists adapted the technique to their style, often holding the guitar in a conventional position and fretting the strings with a steakbone, pocket knife, brass tube, or an actual bottleneck.

In the pre-World War II years, bottleneck blues playing was particularly prevalent among the blues men of Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. Among the best known exponents of the style are Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Blind Willie Johnson, and "Barbecue Bob" Hicks. After the War the legacy of these men was transformed into an integral part of the Chicago blues through the work of Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, Earl Hooker, Elmore James, J.B. Hutto, and Homesick James. In the late 1960's and 70's the electric tradition survived in the music of Johnny "Littlejohn" Funchess, Hound Dog Taylor, and J.B. Hutto. In the 1980's and 90's the tradition survives in the music of J.B. Hutto's nephew Lil' Ed. The acoustic bottleneck style was carried into the 1960's through the music of Fred McDowell and the Black Ace.

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Blues Online© Copyright 1995 Joel M. Snow. All Rights Reserved.
Joel Snow
Created May 31, 1995
Revised May 31, 1995