Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Robert Johnson Not the Single Most Influential Bluesman

Excuse me if I am a bit grumpy. Was watching a PBS broadcast after midnight this morning which was about the blues and this talking head who may have been associated with the Delta Blues Museum giving the same old stereotypical blues history from the Delta to Chicago and he spouts out the nonsense of Robert Johnson being the single most influential bluesman of all time and how blues as we know it would not exist. He even said Johnson is one of the two or three most pivotal artists in American music. They they give the example of Eric Clapton and Keith Richards as if that proves anything about Johnson's influence. The fact that people playing"blues" today, especially the popularizers and imitators, call Robert Johnson the greatest bluesman is irrelevant since their music is essentially a sidebar to the blues history. Hey Johnson is a great artist and did influence a number of very important artists, but even the modern Chicago blues was foreshadowed in earlier artists like Memphis Slim, Washboard Sam, Sonny Boy Williamson, not Rice Miller, and there was a bit of Charlie Christian's influence in the playing of Robert Lockwood, Jr., Johnson's stepson who was a major influence on post-war Chicago guitarists. 'Good Rockin Tonite,' Roy Brown's classic was a helluva lot more influential than 'Hellhound on My Trail' and modern blues would be far more different without the lead of T-Bone Walker (influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson) and the likes of Gatemouth Brown, Guitar Slim, BB King and Lowell Fulson, or pianists like Amos Milburn and Fats Domino.

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