Tiny is as tiny do

Say ‘jazz guitar’ to people and I’m pretty sure that the mental picture they have will be of a chap in a sports coat and tie sitting down playing a big hollow-bodied guitar – possibly a Gibson – and with a tone which might best be described as ‘mellow’:

Of course, I’ve described a stereotype but there’s quite a few such players scattered throughout jazz guitar history and they’ve never interested me much. Yes, I can admire their skill but 5 minutes of someone like Jim Hall

is a bit like aural Ovaltine and gets me reaching for my pyjamas…

Fortunately there are many exceptions to this, and I’m not talking Les Paul toters blasting fusion through Marshalls, either…

…Ladies ‘n’ germs…



Tiny Grimes was and still is unique amongst the ranks of jazz guitarists because he played an electric tenor guitar which has only four strings tuned DGBE like the top four strings of a standard 6-string guitar.

Tiny played rough and his swing style makes a great contrast to someone like his chief influence Charlie Christian, for example, who was less ‘polite’ than most jazz guitarists up to the mid 1960s but sounds positively reserved against Tiny.

Some people have described Grimes as one of the forefathers of rock ‘n’ roll and his 1946 recording ‘Tiny’s Boogie’ as the first rock ‘n’ roll record. Well, that’s a moot point but certainly he plays with a very raw tone – slightly overdriven – with plenty of Chuck Berry-style double stop bends and all this before Chuck gave up a life of crime and decided playing guitar was preferable to being a prison bitch.  In fact, Chuck was in prison whilst Grimes recorded ‘Tiny’s Boogie’.

With Tiny’s heyday in the 1940s there’s very limited video footage of him available, but there’s this which features a solo and also one of the strangest dancers you’ll ever see:

So,  check out Mr Grimes – as ever, Spotify is your friend…

And speaking of ‘tiny’, here’s some bonus guitar that has almost nothing in common with Tiny. It’s Uncle Frank with a particularly nasty solo on ‘City of Tiny Lites’. For some reason, Frank always seemed to be able to whip it out in a poisonous manner when playing a German show. The visuals are pretty fucked up but the playing is sublime:



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