March 11, 2014

Blues Highway

On a warm October morning in the Mississippi Delta, more than a decade ago, my husband and I set out before dawn to search for the grave of the man who—according to legend—sold his soul at the crossroads so he could play great blues guitar.

No figure looms larger in American blues mythology than Robert Johnson. Whether by a deal with the devil or through his own hard work and practice, Johnson played wicked slide guitar during the 1930s. He died in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1938, ostensibly poisoned by a man who thought Johnson was eyeing his wife. Or at least that’s the story. The tale of the jealous husband, like that of Old Scratch at the crossroads, adds both danger and mystery to the King of the Delta Blues. (more…)