Allan Reuss

Biography

Allan Reuss has to be one of the most prolific recording guitarists in the history of music; the records he is credited with playing on could easily bury a Marshall stack, a desirable thing to do even if accumulating a Reuss collection wasn't literally a side benefit. A native New Yorker, Reuss got started early as a professional musician. At the age of 12 he did his first gig after taking only one banjo lesson and for a total of $12 in pay. The year was 1927 and Reuss would continue to play banjo rather than guitar up until the end of the decade, eventually drawing much more than his age in pay. His first teacher on the guitar was the famed George Van Eps, who obviously helped get him ready for the test of integrity, chops, and patience known as Benny Goodman.

Goodman was notoriously hard on everyone but especially guitarists: he could, after all, summon the ghost of Charlie Christian with a flick of the wrist. One guitarist who had been in the Goodman band in the later years, name withheld upon request, turned a shade of purple when the famed swing clarinetist and bandleader's name was mentioned, then launched into a string of obscenities that would have shocked Larry Flynt. Reuss first played with Goodman in the mid-'30s, returned in the summer of 1936 for another stint of nearly two years in length, and then was back again for a year beginning in the summer of 1943, suggesting a pleasant or at least workable relationship.

Reuss also kept extremely busy during his heyday of freelancing. He ran his own teaching studio in New York City and was a regular session player in the NBC studios as well as many other recording sessions. He also worked for stretches in the bands of Jimmy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden, and Paul Whiteman, among others. Reuss had been gigging with trumpeter Harry James when he decided to relocate to Los Angeles in 1945. From his West Coast base he continued combining studio sessions with teaching but also led his own trio. Reuss wrote several snappy compositions recorded by jazz stars such as Lionel Hampton, including "Pickin' for Patsy" and "Shufflin' at the Hollywood."

- By Eugene Chadbourne 
All Music Group