I don’t have much to substantiate the claim that Christiani (April 21, 1918-October 24, 2016) was Europe’s first electric guitarist (does 1 Tweet count?), but I did hear it repeated by Toto’s Steve Lukather, the 2010 recipient of the Eddy Christiani Award. (Like me, Lukather acknowledged that he’d merely heard the claim.)
Be that as it may, Christiani was certainly early to electrify, as he was playing in jazz bands in the 1930s. His first electric was an Epiphone Electar Model M, which he got in 1939.
Early influences on Christiani were Django Reinhardt and American guitarist Eddy Lang, from whom the young Eduard presumably borrowed his nickname. And if the above video reminds hints at the influence of Chet Atkins, perhaps it’s because Christiani is playing a 1958 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Nashville. Christiani met Atkins in person in 1961.
For a full accounting of Christiani’s career, check out this excellent Dutch blog. Even if you can’t translate it from the Dutch, it gives a clear visual timeline of Christiani’s career, showing many good photos of the artist, his guitars, recordings and other performance paraphernalia. (I especially like the covers of Tuney Tunes magazine.)
Later in his career, Christiani turned to vocals, recording hits like “Daar Bij Der Waterkant” (“Down by the Riverside”). But there are still great instrumentals, as in the track below from 1963.