Joshua Altheimer

Joshua Altheimer (May 17, 1910 – November 18, 1940) was an American pianist who is remembered for accompanying Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson and others on influential blues recordings made in Chicago in the 1930s. He was described by Broonzy as "the best blues piano player I ever heard", and by blues historian Hugues Panassié as "the greatest blues pianist on records".

He was born in Altheimer, Arkansas, which he claimed had been founded by his grandfather, and would therefore have had family connections with the leading Chicago law firm of Altheimer & Gray. Joshua Altheimer was relatively light-skinned; it is believed that his grandfather was an immigrant from Germany and his grandmother an ex-slave. His father was Silas Altheimer. It is thought likely that he received some formal musical training, explaining his technique and "perfect tempo". He worked for some years in Arkansas, where he met and probably first performed with blues singer Big Bill Broonzy, who grew up in the same area. Altheimer then moved to Chicago, and in 1937 began working as Broonzy's regular piano accompanist.

According to writer Roger House, Altheimer "brought a nimble, boogie-woogie piano style to the urban blues trio". He became a key part of Broonzy's band in performance and on recordings, and was sought out by other blues performers of the time including John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Washboard Sam, Jazz Gillum, and Lonnie Johnson. He played piano at the 1939 session on which Johnson used an electric guitar for the first time, and recorded prolifically as a sideman during 1939 and 1940. He is described by Bruce Eder at Allmusic as "a strong player, with a right hand capable of coaxing rich, diverse figures out of his instrument". However, he made no recordings as a solo or featured performer.

Joshua Altheimer died in Chicago in November 1940 at the age of 30, the result of various ailments including pneumonia.

Birth and Death Data: Born 1910 (Arkansas), Died Chicago

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1936 - 1940

Roles Represented in DAHR: piano

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 45 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BS-034792 10-in. 5/15/1939 This time is my time Washboard Sam Male vocal solo, with washboard band instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-034810 10-in. 5/17/1939 Got to reap what you sow Jazz Gillum ; Jazz Boys Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-034811 10-in. 5/17/1939 Big Katy Adam Jazz Gillum ; Jazz Boys Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-034812 10-in. 5/17/1939 Against my will Jazz Gillum ; Jazz Boys Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-034813 10-in. 5/17/1939 Talking to myself Jazz Gillum ; Jazz Boys Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-034814 10-in. 5/17/1939 Hard drivin' woman Jazz Gillum ; Jazz Boys Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-034815 10-in. 5/17/1939 Keyhole blues Jazz Gillum ; Jazz Boys Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-034816 10-in. 5/17/1939 Somebody been talking to you Jazz Gillum ; Jazz Boys Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-034817 10-in. 5/17/1939 One time blues Jazz Gillum ; Jazz Boys Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-044045 10-in. 11/2/1939 Why women go wrong Lonnie Johnson Male vocal solo, with guitar and piano instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-044046 10-in. 11/2/1939 She's only a woman Lonnie Johnson Male vocal solo, with guitar and piano instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-044047 10-in. 11/2/1939 She's my Mary Lonnie Johnson Male vocal solo, with guitar and piano instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-044048 10-in. 11/2/1939 Nothing but a rat Lonnie Johnson Male vocal solo, with guitar and piano instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-044049 10-in. 11/2/1939 Trust your husband Lonnie Johnson Male vocal solo, with guitar and piano instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-044050 10-in. 11/2/1939 Jersey belle blues Lonnie Johnson Male vocal solo, with guitar and piano instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-044051 10-in. 11/2/1939 The loveless blues Lonnie Johnson Take 1: Male vocal solo, with guitar and pianoTake 2: Male vocal solo, with guitar instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-044052 10-in. 11/2/1939 Four o three blues Lonnie Johnson Male vocal solo, with guitar and piano instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-049196 10-in. 5/17/1940 I been dealing with the devil Sonny Boy Williamson Male vocal solo, with harmonica, piano, and drums instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-049197 10-in. 5/17/1940 War time blues Sonny Boy Williamson Male vocal solo, with harmonica, piano, and drums instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-049198 10-in. 5/17/1940 Train fare blues Sonny Boy Williamson Male vocal solo, with harmonica, piano, and drums instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-049199 10-in. 5/17/1940 Decoration Day blues no. 2 Sonny Boy Williamson Male vocal solo, with harmonica, piano, and drums instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-049340 10-in. 7/29/1940 Why did you do that to me? Washboard Band (Washboard Sam) Male vocal solo, with instrumental ensemble instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-049341 10-in. 7/29/1940 Digging my potatoes—no. 2 Washboard Band (Washboard Sam) Male vocal solo, with instrumental ensemble instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-049342 10-in. 7/29/1940 Chiselin' blues Washboard Band (Washboard Sam) Male vocal solo, with instrumental ensemble instrumentalist, piano  
Victor BS-049343 10-in. 7/29/1940 Morning dove blues Washboard Band (Washboard Sam) Male vocal solo, with instrumental ensemble instrumentalist, piano  
(Results 1-25 of 45 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Altheimer, Joshua," accessed October 31, 2020, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108443.

Altheimer, Joshua. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 31, 2020, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108443.

"Altheimer, Joshua." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 31 October 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108443

Feedback

Send the Editors a message about this record.