Saturday, February 9, 2013

I came across a photo while surfing - Robert Johnson

I came across a photo while surfing and thought it might interest you. It's verified and shows Robert Johnson posing with Johhny Shines.

For years it was thought that there was only two photos of Johnson, a small low quality one probably taken in a booth (so I read - I didn't know booths existed in the 30s?)

This studio photo was taken at (Hook's Brothers photography shop on Beale Street) and shows him holding a Gibson L1 Flat Top guitar, although contemporaries such as Johnny Shines recalled that he played either Stella or Kalamazoo guitars.

It seems he also played resonator models later on in his career - maybe the guitar shown in this photo was just a prop from the studio, or borrowed from a friend.

A common characteristic of all the photos are those long fingers.

Johnson is on the left in the photo below.

 Speaking for myself, I'm not too interested in Johnson, although I do include a few of his main songs in my street repertoire - they're just so cool! Some of his contemporaries, like Johnny Shines were absolute masters of the genre and such people got pushed into the sidelines a bit - 'cos they were not dead! (Just an idea.)

It's seems amazing to me that so few photos, and particularly old film clips, were recorded for these talents. Obviously, for much of the main stream media, these guys were just important enough, but the legacy they left is huge.

Even blues men such as Scrapper Blackwell, who survived until 1962 has no film footage credited to him and precious few photos. Blackwell was incredibly important and creative in his blues work - far more inventive than Johnson, who mostly adapted traditional songs and adapted other people's work - he was just very good at it, that's all. For example, Johnson's 'Sweet Home Chicago' seems a straight copy of Blackwell's 'Kokomo Blues' - check it out.

Take the King of Ragtime Blind Blake - what I wouldn't give to see a short clip of him playing West Coast Blues, or similar. There are some old clips of some blues men, like Gary Davis, Broonzy, Sleepy John Estes, Mississippi John Hurt, J.B. Lenoir and Johnny Shines, for which we are truly grateful.  I'd be interested in any posts featuring old clips or photos of any blues men.

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