Robert Johnson

[A summer repeat from May 19, 2013] What do Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) and Scott Petersen have in common?   We have all been inspired by Robert Johnson — the godfather of the Blues. 

In my post of April 20, 2012 (“Martin O-18”), I talked about how I enjoy playing the guitar; how I played years ago in a group; and how I still play nearly every day.  And I enjoy playing the Blues.  The  grand master of the Blues and inspiration to so many of the greats was Robert LeRoy Johnson.  Robert Johnson was born in Hazelhurst, MS in 1911.  At an early age, Robert began playing the harmonica, the “jaw harp” and the guitar.  Soon, he settled into life as an itinerant musician — playing in bars, juke joints and dance halls in the Mississippi Delta.   He would often arrive in a new town and stand in front of a barber shop or restaurant where he would serenade the town folk with Blues, pop standards, jazz or country music.  He was versatile and proficient. 

There are only two known recording sessions of the works of Robert Johnson:  in 1936 in the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX; and in 1937 at the Vitagraph Building in Dallas.  The songs are grainy and yet iconic.   At the 3 day San Antonio session, Johnson recorded 16 selections, a few with alternate “takes.”  In Dallas, 11 recordings were made.  It is believed he did the sessions playing a Gibson L-1.  The complete collection of Johnson’s “discography” can be had for a few dollars (see ).    

Robert Johnson enjoyed the company of ladies and he is known to have fathered several children.  And his dalliance got him into trouble.  On August 16, 1938, at the age of 27, Robert Johnson while playing in a dance hall in Greenwood, MS was poisoned by a jealous husband.  Johnson died and was buried in an unmarked grave nearby.

Robert Johnson is known for a series of wonderful songs but his most famous are Cross Road Blues, Hellhound on my Trail and – Sweet Home Chicago.  I would still like to get my old group back together but Donna has advised “Don’t quit the day job, Elvis.”   [Now that I’m retired, my “day job” has changed]

One thought on “Robert Johnson

  1. John Stonebraker

    My considered advice: Get the group back together. I wish I had, before our lead trumpet, who played with Louis Armstrong while he was in college and later with Maynard Ferguson, died. I heard him at The London House in Chicago before I even knew who he was, and had the extreme good fortune to live across the street from him in North Carolina for eight years.

    _____________________ John Stonebraker (864) 247-0341 Bonita Springs FL USA


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