Artist Profiles - Guitarist Wes Montgomery

John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery was a jazz guitarist. Many fellow jazz guitarists consider Montgomery the greatest influence among modern jazz guitarists.

Montgomery was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in March, 1923. The nickname "Wes" was a child's abbreviation of his middle name, Leslie. Although he was not skilled at reading music, he could learn complex melodies and riffs by ear. Montgomery started learning the six string guitar (using his thumb rather than a pick) at the relatively late age of 20 by listening to and learning the recordings of his idol, guitarist Charlie Christian.

He toured with Lionel Hampton during 1948-1950. He recorded with his brothers, Buddy and Monk during 1957-1959 and made his first Riverside album (1959) in a trio with organist Melvin Rhyne. In 1960, he released ìThe Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.î   He played with the John Coltrane Sextet later in the year.

Montgomery moved over to Verve, where during 1964-1966 he recorded an interesting series of mostly orchestral dates. These records were generally a good balance between jazz and accessibility.  In 1967 Wes signed with Creed Taylor at A&M and during 1967-1968 he recorded three best-selling albums.

He died of a heart attack on June 15, 1968.