However, in May of , during his stay in Hazelhurst, he married Calletta "Callie" Craft, an affectionate woman, twice married with three children.
With Callie, Robert established a pattern that he was to follow in the coming years wherever he went. Seeking out older, often less attractive women, or a homely young girl, for whom there would likely be no competition, he would exchange his attentions for their kindness and a place to stay.
With just forty-one recordings to his credit, Robert Johnson () is a giant in the history of blues music. Johnson's vast influence on twentieth-century. Robert Johnson: Lost and Found Series: Music in American Life He spent most of his adult life traveling from town to town, playing guitar and singing for.
One researcher found at least half a dozen women who had relationships of this kind with Robert, most of them lasting two or three weeks. Whilst many blues artists got nothing but a meal or free booze for their work, Robert usually had a little money too, which appealed to many local ladies. There is little evidence that Robert Johnson had any family.
However, the blues singer Robert 'Junior' Lockwood was said to be the son of one of Robert Johnson's 'girl friends'. Also, recent research has located Claude Johnson, reputed to be Robert's son, together with grandson, Gregory and great-grandson Richard. Described by David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, as tall and skinny, Robert also had a bad eye, evidently due to a cataract. There are only two surviving photographs of Robert, found years after his death.
In one of them he looks young and sophisticated in a pinstripe suit, with a hat tilted at an angle. In the other more informal picture, he looks relaxed with possible hints of the sullen, more morose character which has become the Robert Johnson myth. Studying the photographs it looks like his left eye was the bad one, but not as bad as legend has led us to believe. Robert, described as a sulky person, would disappear for weeks at a time, giving no reason, even deserting fellow artists during a session. He was a very widely travelled man, travelling around the Mississippi Delta, to Chicago, Detroit, New York, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, and even as far as Windsor, Ontario, Canada, earning his living solely through music.
Robert's earliest musical desire was to be a harmonica player, but that soon waned, and he decided he wanted to be a guitar player like Son House and Willie Brown.
Robert would literally sit at their feet, studying their technique, arrangements and styles, in the rowdy juke joints. He often spend entire weekends playing with Zinnerman, said to be an excellent guitarist, but unfortunately one of the many unrecorded bluesmen.
Robert was reported to have one of the 'quickest ears' in the Mississippi Delta. Johnny Shines claimed he could have a conversation while listening to a song on the radio playing it, note for note, hours or even days later. Shines also said, when playing for money on street corners, Robert was just as likely to play a Bing Crosby tune, or a current jazz tune as he was to play one of his own songs.
Not many people recall him ever practising or working out new songs. Whenever he picked up the guitar with people around, it was to work. On the subject of learning to play the guitar, Shines summed it up by saying 'They don't talk about a duck learning to swim, do they? So it was for Robert Johnson. During Robert's period of wandering as an itinerant blues singer, he was heard by a local record salesman of the American Record Corporation ARC.
Robert recorded 29 songs for Vocalion in five sessions, 16 of them in a makeshift studio in a room of the Ganter Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, in November , and the other 13 in a warehouse in Dallas, Texas the following June. There is reference to a thirtieth 'bawdy' song, recorded at the engineers' request, but this has never been located. It has never been established which, if any, of his recordings were specifically created for the studio, and what proportion were regularly performed. Johnny Shines, reminiscencing about Robert's 'talking guitar playing', is frequently quoted: "His guitar seemed to talk; repeat and say words with him like no one else in the world could.
One time in St Louis we were playing one of the songs that Robert would like to play with someone once in a while: 'Come On in My Kitchen'. He was playing very slow and passionately, and when we had quit, I noticed no one was saying anything. Then I realised they were crying - both men and women". Any song Robert Johnson played automatically became his own. Robert would pick up any hillbilly tune, popular song, ballad, 'sweet music' from the radio, and convert them into his purely personal style.
According to legend, in Robert disappeared from Robinsonville, where he had been hanging around with Son House and Willie Brown, and travelled to Hazelhurst. During those months away, he studied guitar with Ike Zinnerman. Ike claimed that he learned how to play guitar by sitting in a graveyard on tombstones at night. When Robert returned to Robinsonville, his playing had improved so incredibly that people began to speculate that he had met the devil and swapped his soul for such ungodly ability.
Son House was emphatic "he sold his soul to the devil to get to play like that. The awkward kid, who could barely play the harmonica and who had very little command of the guitar, had been changed into a kind of master musician who gained a great deal of respect. Little about the life Robert Leroy Johnson lived in his brief 27 years, from approximately May until he died mysteriously in , was documented. A birth certificate, if he had one, has never been found.
What is known can be summarized on a postcard: He is thought to have been born out of wedlock in May in Mississippi and raised there. School and census records indicated he lived for stretches in Tennessee and Arkansas. He took up guitar at a young age and became a traveling musician, eventually glimpsing the bustle of New York City.
But he died in Mississippi, with just over two dozen little-noticed recorded songs to his name.
Decades after his death, he became one of the most famous guitarists who had ever lived, hailed as a lost prophet who, the dubious story goes, sold his soul to the devil and epitomized Mississippi Delta blues in the bargain. The chasm between the man Johnson was and the myth he became — between mortal reach and posthumous grip — has marooned historians and conscientious listeners for more than a half-century.
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That is certain. But Johnson was a heroic figure in his own right, even without having this mythology attached to him. Please let me know if there is a delay. Then one night, while House and Brown were playing another gig in Banks, Mississippi, in walks Johnson with a guitar case strapped to his back. JJM The musicians clearly heard his music differently than the literary critics did. These songs are all quite danceable. When the supernatural is referred to in blues it is usually done so in terms of possessing some type of magical powers that have control over whoever you are in a relationship with.
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