Robert Johnson

1911–1938

Legend has it that the most famous of the blues players sold his soul in exchange for his talent at Dockery Farms.

Robert Johnson didn’t spend very much time in any one place during his short life, but he managed to pick up quite a few friends and influences at Dockery Farms. When he first appeared in the area, as a teenager, he was introduced to Charley Patton, Son House and Honeyboy Edwards by his friend Willie Brown. 

Most of the historical accounts of his life came from these friends, who went on to spread his legend once he was discovered and posthumously crowned king of the blues in the 1960s by Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. 

Son House claimed that the teenager who arrived at Dockery was a competent harmonica player, but could barely play guitar. Johnson, who is respected as one of the most technically able guitarists of the twentieth century, learned how to play from the musicians at Dockery and adapted that style to his own, carrying it all over the American Deep South and eventually up to Chicago. His song, Crossroads, is probably the best known blues song today.

 

Sources: Robert Palmer's definitive Deep Blues, Wikipedia, AllMusic, NPR's Take Five, The Mississippi Blues Trail, and Dr. David Evans.