Robert Johnson: Demystifying the Legend

    What made Robert Johnson so great? Is it some kind of mystery? Johnson was the first Honkey Tonk guitarist   Nearly all of the Johnson recordings are very strong representations of Honkey Tonk guitar He was also the first and only acoustic blues guitarist to combine 7th chord rythms with slide guitar If you listen to other acoustic slide guitarists of the day like Charlie Patton, you'll notice they're not playing any 7th chord rythms, they're just playing basic chords Johnson may have been the only recorded blues guitarist to combine 7th chord rythms, Honkey Tonk rythms and slide The guitar playing of the delta region was a successor of gospel banjo while the guitar playing of New Orleans had as a predecessor ragtime banjo but was instrumental and it's practicioners included many who could read music rather than for singing call and response So if you were a delta blues guitar player and you traveled outside of the region you may happen upon guitar players in these other styles According to the Guralnik book he got some instruction from Isaiah "Ike" Zimmerman who he lived with for a year or so as a guest of Zimmerman's in Hazelhurst The magical rich tinny sounds of the Johnson recordings may be attributable to the stringing on his Gibson made Kalamazoo brand guitar Brunswick may have recorded a little slow to give his voice a higher pitch on playback at normal speed I found two photos of Johnson holding a guitar, one with a capo, the other without Hmm Might the capo photo have been taken to explain away the higher pitch? The communist party would adopt blues as their "official" music and sponsor the 1938 New York event at Carnegie Hall which Johnson, billed as the star attraction, the world's greatest blues man, wouldn't live to appear at  Here is a video of Robert Johnson singing and playing banjo with Robert Petway seated  in the foreground to Johnsons's left and Mississippi Fred McDowell to Johnson's right rear  Identifications of Johnson, Petway and McDowell by myself The other two remain unidentified so far