Dick McDonough and Carl Kress

Dick McDonough

Dick McDonough

Like many of his contemporaries, Dick McDonough’s career began as a banjo player, an instrument he can be heard playing on the 1927 recording, Feelin’ No Pain by Red Nichols.

By the early 1930s he had switched to the guitar and was soon in demand as a studio musician recording with Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Billie Holiday, Glen Miller and a host of other high profile artists of the day.

An alcoholic, McDonough died in 1938 at the age of 34.

Despite a relatively short career, his influence can be heard in a generation of jazz guitarists who learned from his complex harmonies and syncopated rhythms.

Recorded with guitarist Carl Kress in 1934, Chicken A La Swing, Danzon and Stage Fright showcase McDonough’s accomplished single string and sophisticated chord work.

Listen to Chasin’ A Buck

Carl Kress

Starting out on the piano, Carl Kress moved to the banjo and tenor guitar before settling on the six-string guitar in the early 1930s.

Though he worked with many of the period’s top names – Joe Venuti, the Boswell Sisters, Paul Whiteman and Adrian Rollini to name a few – he is best remembered for a series of duets that he recorded with guitarists Eddie Lang, Dick McDonough, Tony Mottola and later, George Barnes.

A seminal figure in the shift from banjo to guitar as the rhythm instrument of choice in prewar dance bands, Carl Kress developed a unique chord style that set him apart from his contemporaries.

He died of a heart attack while on tour with Barnes in 1965.

Listen to: Pickin’ My Way, recorded with Eddie Lang in 1932 with Dick McDonough from 1934