100th Fever

Steve Hoffman stevehoffman@STARPOWER.NET
Tue May 10 18:50:21 EDT 2011

Son --

Yes, that point is well-taken, and indeed one valid  criticism of Elijah
Wald's thesis is that he understates the significance of Robert Johnson
to popular music because he does not acknowledge that musical lineage
between Robert Johnson and some of the commercially successful (and
influential) Chicago blues musicians of the 50s such as  Muddy Waters,
Elmore James (and of course another one you didn't  namely Jimmy Reed!!!).

But there were in fact plenty of Delta bluesmen around in those days for
young Muddy and young Jimmy and others to have picked up on. They came
out of Delta blues, of which -- as P.W. correctly points out -- Robert
Johnson was merely one among many, and not necessarily the most
well-known even among and within blues circles of his day (by which I
mean among Southern black folk).

And whereas those British blues-rockers were directly influenced by
blues of the Muddy Waters style ... that is STILL different from saying
that blues style led to rock'n'roll.

Rock'n'roll as its own genre started in the early 1950s as a DIRECT
descendant of jump-blues and that sort of thing .... the big bands of
the 40s stripping down their sound and emphasizing the beat ....  The
British blues-rock of the mid-60s was what it was, but it was simply ONE
style within the wider world of rock'n'roll .... In fact, although the
Rolling Stones were of course heavily into Muddy, the Beatles -- leaders
of the Brit invasion -- were more heavily influenced by American pop/R&B
(they covered Marvelettes, Shirelles) and rockabilly (Carl Perkins), not
blues (and I daresay you won't hear a lot of Robert Johnson/Muddy Waters
influence in the Dave Clark Five, Hermans Hermits, Peter & Gordon, Gerry
& the Pacemakers, and many of the other best-selling British invasion
groups of the time).

IMO, a big part of all the distortion re: Robert Johnson stems from the
world's adulation and canonization of Eric Clapton as the Guitar God
(and of guitar as THE rock instrument).  So when He spoketh of Robert
Johnson, everyone took it as Gospel that Robert Johnson must be THE guy.

Elijah Wald once said something very smart when I heard him speak. He
said, if you want to know the actual population of Cleveland, Ohio in
1930, you don't start by looking up the 1990 census and working
backward.  You dig up the 1930 census.  Likewise, folklore that
developed around Robert Johnson in the modern era is not the way to
understand what actually happened in the prior era.

That all being said, I do agree with that Robert Johnson connection to
classic Chicago blues a la Muddy/Elmore/Jimmy Reed . . .

-Steve Hoffman

Sonlewis1@aol.com wrote:
> I am partially with you both, but not completely....
> RJ's modernization of the Blues greatly affected a couple of folks who
> had a significant impact on the development of Rock music...Muddy
> Waters and Elmore James.
> Without RJ's influence, it's very likely that, while both may have
> still ended up playing guitar, the end result of what they sounded
> like might have been remarkably different.... Who can really tell
> where Muddy's or Elmore's playing would have led the young rockers had
> without RJ's influence on their own music...
> Son Lewis
> www.sonlewis.com <http://www.sonlewis.com>
> In a message dated 5/10/2011 1:16:34 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
> stevehoffman@STARPOWER.NET writes:
>     no, brother P.W. you are not alone, I am with you ....

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