Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Robert Johnson Blues Foundation Hall of Fame

Raymond Reeves writes about the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation Hall of Fame dinner and shares the teacher behind the Robert Johnson devil myth (read the full story: Playin' the blues)

Ask a music expert about the birthplace of the blues, and the answer will be quick and simple: the Mississippi Delta. But central Mississippi can stake a claim as well, as the birthplace of one of this genre's most influential figures.

Robert Johnson [of Hazlehurst], who, legend says, sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads of highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, will be honored this weekend with the annual Blues Jam. The event, in its fourth year, is organized by the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation and features an awards banquet at Jackson's TelCom Center on Friday and a festival in Crystal Springs on Saturday.

The banquet, scheduled for downtown Jackson on Friday night, includes the induction of the latest class into the foundation's hall of fame: David "Honeyboy" Edwards, the last living blues artist known to have played with Johnson, and the late Ike Zinnerman, who will be represented by members of his family. Zinnerman apparently played such a role in Johnson's life that his influence is reflected in the famous legend regarding Johnson's talent.

"Ike Zinnerman is the great bluesman who shared his knowledge of the guitar with Robert Johnson," Clapton wrote. "The (Johnson) family says that, when Robert Johnson came down to study with Ike Zinnerman, he was not that great of a guitarist, quite frankly. When he studied with him, he worked with him so intensely that when he went back to the Delta people were saying 'Man, what happened to you? You must have sold your soul to the devil.'"

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