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Robert Johnson

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Originally Posted by MikeJones

Yeh Gearheart is awesome. What is the story about Hendrix and Eddie James "Son" House? I never heard of the guy but I will check him out.


A lot of people never heard of him, but he was actually a more important figure historically than Robert Johnson.


Hendrix (sorry I misspelled his name earlier) sought Son out in Rochester New York in 1968. No one seemed willing to point out Son's home. Finally he was directed to a man named Waterman who took Hendrix to Meet Son. After a while Hendrix asked about Robert Johnson and Son repeatedly denied remembering any such person (which he was known to do). Finally after being reminded of Johnson's nickname (Dusty) he smiled and confirmed having known him, saying something like "poor old Dusty..." He then changed the subject to religion and basically preached to Hendrix.


Among the stories surrounding House was that he, Willie Brown and Robert Johnson were walking on highway 61 near Clarksdale when Brown teased Johnson about waiting at the crossroads of 61 & 49 and selling his soul to be better than Son. According to the story Johnson did in fact stop there and Son became angry at Willie for bringing it up. They all stayed the first night because Son refused to leave him there alone but the next day he and Willie had to get to a show and Johnson did stay behind.


Son said that the next time he saw Johnson was about 6-8 months later and he was a guitar master all of a sudden, Son supposedly confronted him about it. Son was also the source that directed Blues Historians to investigate Ike Zinnerman, a little known but highly talented Bluesman from Arkansas, who according to House is the one who tutored Johnson for that 6-8 months.


Historians located zinnerman's daughter who confirmed what House had said. She also told them that her dad and Johnson practiced every night...in the graveyard.


At least one Blues historian claims that whenever House and Johnson were playing the same venue that Johnson refused to face House, he would always play with his back turned. Some people theorize that this was to protect his licks,but he had taken many of them from Son. Some oldtimers claimed it was because he was ashamed and or afraid to face Son.


Anyway, the whole story is fascinating. Then you have the fact that Muddy Waters admitted that Son House was his mentor as well. The story just goes on and on.

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Waterman was actually Son's friend and manager later in Son's life. By all accounts Waterman was good to Son and very protective of him. Ike Zinnerman was the man who tutored Johnson at night in the graveyard.


Keep in mind that to us and even to the people who were asking the questions Robert Johnson and Willie Brown and Charlie Patton are names of mysterious long dead musicians. To Son they were real people and his friends.


When "investigating" the story and legend the first thing you have to do is to disregard pretty much everything said by Honeyboy Edwards and Sonny Boy Williamson as their stories have been shown to be less than accurate. Better sources are Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood Jr. and of course Son.


By most accounts Johnson was intentionally poisoned using strychnine in a bottle of whiskey that was given to him. There are historians who don't believe this is accurate, but it seems to be accepted by most as true.


Johnson often altered the songs he learned from Son in rather interesting ways. The songs "Preaching the Blues" and "Walking Blues" were two that he adopted from Son. Son's version of Preaching the Blues is somewhat autobiographical as he often played juke joints on Saturday night and turned around and preached sermons at the Baptist church on Sunday morning. Johnson's version is greatly sped up and lyrically much different. Where as Son tells us "a sister jumped up" Johnson says "the devil jumped up".


I'm pretty sure the inner tube story is not about Son or Johnson.

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