Happy 103rd birthday to Robert Johnson, quite possibly the greatest influence on popular music, although he only recorded 29 songs before his untimely death. He was considered a wannabe by senior Delta blues figures like Son House, so Johnson went to the crossroads near Dockery Plantation at midnight and sold his soul to the devil. When he returned, his contemporaries’ jaws dropped. No one had ever heard a guitar played like that, and his voice was haunted, as if he was fully aware of the terrors nipping at his heels. When you listen to his recordings, it sounds like two people playing guitars, but it’s just Robert, alone in the studio. (Overdubbing didn’t exist yet.) One can only imagine what the future would have held for him musically The devil, however, called in his marker early.
One could make the argument that without Johnson, Elvis would never have walked into Sun Records in 1953. (Sun Records might not have existed either, since they started out recording blues musicians like Howlin’ Wolf, who were heavily influenced by Johnson.)