100th Fever

Jonny Meister bluesandbeyond@GMAIL.COM
Tue May 10 15:07:44 EDT 2011

I've been feeling a little "Robert-Johnsoned-out" myself, but was
reluctant to say much about it! The guy was incredible, though a lot
of other people who influenced him and were just as moving, Son
House, Skip James, Kokomo Arnold, get no such attention... and of
course the whole devil-at-the-crossroads thing has gotten old a long
time ago to my thinking... Johnson had little effect on blues
history, certainly negligible compared with Bessie Smith, Blind Lemon
Jefferson, Leroy Carr, Big Bill Broonzy, and many others. (Muddy
cited Son House as his major influence, though he had heard one of
Robert's records; is there evidence that Elmore James actually heard Robert?)

What we're really seeing is the "Eric Clapton effect" though the
myth-building began with John Hammond playing Johnson's records on
the stage at From Spirituals To Swing at Carnegie Hall. If Johnson
hadn't been murdered and had actually made it there, I'm sure he
would have been a hit, and probably he could have gone on to play the
postwar folk festivals -- would his status then be what it is today,
or maybe somewhat like that of Mississippi Fred McDowell or Skip
James? Maybe he would have "gone electric" before Dylan and saved us from that!

I have to keep the myth out of my head in order to keep it from
interfering with my enjoyment of a truly great artist... no one can
really live up to such a thing. It's unfair that he should have to.

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