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Robert Johnson


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#61 HeteroBoy

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Posted 09 May 2008 - 08:26 PM

QUOTE (AcousticSmash @ May 9 2008, 08:54 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (dadfad @ May 7 2008, 11:33 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
And Robert wasn't opposed to "borrowing" tunes himself. Scrapper Blackwell recorded a tune called "Kokomo Blues" around 1929 or 1930 (I forget). Honeyboy Edwards told me that a guitarist named Kokomo Arnold was performing that tune almost exactly like Blackwell's tune on the street in Greenwood, Mississippi, which he called "Sweet Home Kokomo" (Arnold recorded that tune shortly after as "Sweet Home Kokomo.") and that he and Robert saw him doing it. A few weeks later Robert was doing "Sweet Home Chicago." laugh.gif

And the Son House (Robert's old mentor) tune "Walking Blues." Robert's "Malted Milk" is a virtual Lonnie Johnson clone tune. His "They're Red Hot" was in a style simplified but very similar to one used in the late '20s by Blind Blake. In "Hellhound" he was obviously trying to imitate the very dark-blues sound of Skip James' earlier recordings and came very close, using the open-D DADF#AD tuning he was familiar with. But Skip actually used Open-Dm DADFAD which at that time was an extremely obscure tuning, used only by a few musicians who came from the Bentonia, Mississippi area. (That region was more mountainous and remote than the Delta region of Mississippi and had several very specific regional styles, including the use of open-minors and a pretty unusual fife-and-drum style of blues, much more African-sounding.) Robert wasn't yet a sophisticated enough guitarist to copy Skip's tuning, but he was good enough to create a tremendous tune with very close to the same sort of feel using his own methods. It seemed like Robert was trying to draw on the styles of several of the old-masters who had pre-dated him and incorporate it into his playing.

(As well as a bit of down-right plagerism! .... "... mmmm... babe... don'cha wanna go? Better pack yo' little suitcase... we're off to Sweet Home Kokomo"... laugh.gif )

People have been ripping each other off musically for hundreds of years, I don't think RJ was the first guy to do it.

Neither were Led Zeppelin.... dry.gif
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QUOTE (johnnynapalm @ Dec 30 2007, 09:03 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Fck I love the thought of someone being so bad at standing that they seriously injure their beanbags.

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#62 rob295

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 03:18 AM

Was reading Bob Dylan's book chronicals. Thought you might want to hear what he said about Johnson:

"Johnson masked the presence of more than twenty men. I fixated on every song and wondered how Jonson did it. Songwriting for him was some highly sophisticated business. The compositions seemed to come right out of his mouth and not his memory and I started meditating on the construction of the verses, seeing how they were different from Woodie's [Guthrie]. Johnson's words made my nerves quiver like piano wires. They were so elemental in meaning and feeling and gave you so much of the inside picture."

Also later he puts:

"Johnson recorded in the '30s, and in the 1960s there were still some folks around in the Delta who had known about him. Some even, who knew him. There'd been a fast moving story going around that he sold his soul to the devil at a four-way crossroads at midnight and that's how he got to be so good. Well I don't know about that. The ones who knew him told a different tale and that was that he had hung around some older blues players in rural parts of Mississippi, played harmonica, was rejected as a bothersome kid, that he went off and learned how to play guitar from a farmhand named Ike Zinnerman, a mysterious character not in any of the history books. Maybe because he didn't make records. He must have been an incredible teacher. Those who knew said that Ike showed Robert the rudiments of how to play like just about anybody and that Johnson did the rest on his own, that he mainly listened to records and got all of his approaches off those records."

Thought you'd like it. Sums up Johnson well.

Edited by rob295, 23 May 2008 - 03:19 AM.


#63 jumping_jack_splash

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 09:29 AM

Someone told me there was a debate as to whether or not Johnson even wrote Crossroads Blues. (Some say Elmore James did.) Has anyone heard anything about this?

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#64 Crawdaddy

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 09:46 AM

I can't answer that one way or another but Elmore James was born in 1918 and I believe Robert Johnsons recording of Crossroads was in 1936, so at best if Elmore did write it then he would have been no more than 18 years old at the time.
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#65 HeteroBoy

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 10:00 PM

QUOTE (jumping_jack_splash @ May 24 2008, 10:29 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Someone told me there was a debate as to whether or not Johnson even wrote Crossroads Blues. (Some say Elmore James did.) Has anyone heard anything about this?

I believe it is around I Believe I'll Dust My Broom.

But, from my understanding, Elmore Jame's version came out in '51? So... I don't know.
But I'm pretty sure it was adapted by Robert by someone else too.
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QUOTE (johnnynapalm @ Dec 30 2007, 09:03 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Fck I love the thought of someone being so bad at standing that they seriously injure their beanbags.

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#66 dadfad

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 04:32 AM

QUOTE (jumping_jack_splash @ May 24 2008, 01:29 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Someone told me there was a debate as to whether or not Johnson even wrote Crossroads Blues. (Some say Elmore James did.) Has anyone heard anything about this?


I would doubt that. But Elmore covered the tune electrically and his recording was popular in the early fifties. (Actually he covered it several times, calling it both Dust My Broom and Dust My Blues, as well as a couple of other recorded tunes that were played exactly the same way, but with different lyrics that he gave different names to.) It's possible whoever said that Elmore wrote it was only aware of Elmore James' electric version and didn't know it was a cover of an earlier acoustic blues tune by Johnson. Johnson had been doing the tune for awhile already when he recorded it. That would make Elmore pretty young, sixteen or younger, and then Johnson would have had to have heard it being done to copy it, and I'd really doubt that James was gigging that young. (Several references cite that James began playing the didley-bow, a primative home-made single string instrument, at age fifteen.) Anyway, I doubt Johnson got it from James.

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#67 jumping_jack_splash

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 09:39 AM

Haha, well, I'm slightly embarressed at not making that link. Haha, someone gonna get a hidin' laugh.gif

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