"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

:: Thursday, April 01, 2004 ::

30th Robert Johnson recording found

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, NOTA Press Agency (April 1)?In what blues scholars and record collectors are hailing as the fmd of the century, a female San Antonian construction worker has announced that she has found a hitherto unknown Robert Johnson master labelled "Fool For You."

Johnson, regarded as the most influetial Delta bluesman in history, died in 1938, aged 27, leaving behind a slim legacy of 29 recordings. Leastwise, that is what has always been believed until ThursdaY's shock announcement.

Abril Inocente, 33, said she came across a metal cannister in a building being demolished next to the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, in which Johnson had his first recording session, during which he recorded 16 of what would become some of the most influential recordings in history.

Johnson was born in Hazelhurst, Miss., on May 8,1911. In performance, Johnson played his own songs as well as those of other bluesmen and generally popular music by performers such as Bing Crosby. When he made up his mind to record, in 1936, he approached H. C. Speirs, a white record store owner in Jackson, Miss.

Speirs sent Johnson to Ernie Oertle, an American Record Company scout. Oertle and Johnson went to San Antonio on Nov. 23, 1936.

On Monday, Nov. 23, Johnson recorded eight songs: "Kindhearted Woman Blues," "I Believe I'll dust My Broom," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Ramblin'on My Mind," "When You Got a Good Friend," "Come on in My Kitchen," "Terraplane Blues," and "Phonograph Blues." Also recording in the makeshift studio that day were Hermanas Barraza and a western vocal group called The Chuck Wagon Gang.

Later that night, Johnson apparently ran into trouble somewhere in downtown San Antonio. No one knows what happened, but as the story goes, Law had to bail him out of jail during his stay in San Antonio, and it may have been that Wednesday.

On the following day, Thanksgiving, Johnson returned to the studio, but for some unknown reason recorded only one song: "32:20 Blues." His voice sounds tired on the recording, perhaps because of little sleep he had gotten behind the bars of the Bexar County cooler.

He returned on Friday morning, apparently refreshed, and recorded "They're Red Hot," "Dead Shrimp Blues," "Cross Road Blues," "Walkin' Blues," "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," "Preachin' Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)," and "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day."

Johnson returned to recording in Jume of 1937, this time in Dallas. He did two takes each of "Hellhound On My Trail," "Little Queen of Spades," "Malted Milk," "Drunken Hearted Man," "Me and the Devil Blues," "Stop Breakin' Down Blues," 'Y raveling Riverside Blues," and "Honeymoon Blues," and three takes of "Milkcow's Calf Blues," and four takes of "Love in Vain."

For years, these have been believed to be Johnson's total volume of recodings, altough rumours of a missing Johnson master have circulated for years, but music historians have dismissed them as wishful thinking.

"This certainkly changes our view of that," musicologist Tother Lomax said.

"I didn't know what it was at first," Inocente said. "But after I brushed the dust of the metal cannister, I saw a handwritten label saying: R. Johnson 'Fool for You'."

"Opening it up, I saw what looked like a large wheel of black cheese with mold on it," Inocente added.

Recordings of the era were recorded on large wax masters, that fit the description given, according to Parlaphone Record sound engineer Mizzen Shellac.

Johnson died after being poisoned by a jealous husband at a juke joint on Aug. 13, 1938, in Three Forks, just outside Greemwood, Miss., at which the bluesman had been playing.

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