GXB14861 Robert Johnson by George Sottung © Wind River Studios

Raised in America’s Mississippi Delta region, Robert Johnson was surrounded by people who influenced his musical career. A self-taught harmonica player, he learned guitar by watching his older brother play. Johnson was also inspired by local bluesmen Eddie “Son” House, Charley Patton and Willie Brown. Hearing these talents play at Delta picnics and parties, the aspiring musician proved to be a quick study. In 1933, after performing before his mentors, Johnson startled them with the progress he had made. His unusual falsetto voice and rapid command of the Blues prompted the myth that Johnson had made a pact with the devil to acquire his expertise. The singer’s tongue-in-cheek response to this absurd rumor was to perform such songs as Me and the Devil Blues and Hellhound on My Trail. Johnson roamed the Delta area, eventually taking his music north to St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and even New York. Just before his untimely death at age 27, the accomplished bluesman had two recording sessions. From these came Johnson’s greatest contribution to Blues — legendary songs like Sweet Home Chicago and Walkin’ Blues. In 1990, Columbia Records issued The Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson, a two-disc package that won a Grammy Award and sold nearly half a million sets, proving that this talented artist’s music continues to endure more than 50 years after it was first recorded.

Image and Text © Wind River Studios