Robert Johnson: Down at the Crossroads

I can’t think of a better subject on the eve of Halloween than Robert Johnson, the Mississippi blues guitarist who was said to have sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for learning to play guitar. It’s an old story. The myth that just won’t die. But how did this myth about a nefarious, midnight meeting at a Mississippi Crossroads between Johnson and Old Scratch that resulted in a contract, in which Johnson becomes a great guitar player and the Devil gets his soul, become the story that defined…

Skip James I’d Rather Be the Devil

It seems fitting that with the spooky holiday approaching, Skip James is today’s blues man. His music has an eerie quality that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, and even though it was covered by Robert Johnson (next week’s subject), no one, not even “sold his soul to the devil Johnson” had that same quality and downright, well evilish sound of Skip James. And that’s not even taking into consideration his subject matter. “I’d rather be the devil, than be that woman’s man.” Skip James was a strange man to…

Elmore James: The King of Slide Guitar

What do you get when you take a broom handle and pair it with an empty lard can and and string some wire across it? The beginnings of a musical career that would influence slide guitarists for decades. Elmore James, born in Richland, MS, on January 27, 1918 taught himself to play bottle neck guitar on a homemade instrument. By fourteen, he was playing country suppers and juke joints around the Delta. Though he liked to stay close to home, he did travel with Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf, and Sonny…