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  • Within less than a year’s time, in exchange for his everlasting soul, Robert Johnson became the king of the Delta blues singers, able to play, sing, and create the greatest blues anyone had ever heard

The Reality

  • Johnson returned home to Hazlehurst and began absorbing influences from phonograph records made by other blues guitarists

  • He came under the tutelage of local guitarist Ike Zinerman, who scholars believe was the most important influence on Johnson’s revolutionary modern style

Death at the Crossroads

  • Johnson’s death occurred on August 16, 1938, at the age of 27 at a little country crossroads near Greenwood, Mississippi

  • There are a number of accounts and theories regarding the events preceding Johnson's death

    • One of these is that one evening Johnson began flirting with a woman at a dance

      • One version of this rumor says she was the wife of the juke joint owner

      • Another suggests she was a married woman he had been secretly seeing


  • Researcher Mack McCormick claims to have interviewed Johnson’s alleged poisoner in the 1970s, and obtained a tacit admission of guilt from the man

  • When Johnson was offered an open bottle of whiskey, his friend and fellow blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson knocked the bottle out of his hand, informing him that he should never drink from an offered bottle that has already been opened

  • Robert Johnson allegedly said, “Don’t ever knock a bottle out of my hand”

  • Soon after, he was offered another open bottle and accepted it. That bottle was laced with strychnine

  • Johnson is said to have survived the initial poisoning only to succumb to pneumonia three days later, in his weakened state

Texas Blues

  • Texas bluesmen were known for their strong guitar playing

  • Also known for a more relaxed manner than the Delta style

  • Two of the greatest early Texas bluesmen

    • Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter (1888 – 1949)

    • “Blind” Lemon Jefferson (1897 – 1929)

Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter (1888 – 1949)

  • Born January 23, 1888 on a plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana

  • Known for his clear and forceful singing

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