The 29 songs that he recorded in 1936-37, before he was apparently murdered at 27 by a jealous husband who gave him poisoned whisky, revolutionized the Mississippi Delta style that became the foundation of the Chicago blues sound. As a tribute to the singer, the Music Machine hosts a 50th anniversary observance on Saturday featuring country blues veterans David (Honeyboy) Edwards and Johnny Shines-both of whom traveled and performed with [Robert Johnson]-and a contingent from the L.A. roots rock scene headed by Phil and Dave Alvin.
In 1936, Johnson went to the Jackson, Miss., music store of H.C. Speir, a record company talent scout responsible for recording most of the premier Delta blues musicians of the day-Tommy Johnson, House, Skip James, Patton, the Mississippi Sheiks. Impressed by Johnson's audition, Speir referred him to Ernie Oertle of the American Recording Co.
Big Bill Broonzy, Johnson's replacement, became the most visible country-blues artist of the next two decades due in large part to the exposure from that historic concert. At the very least, it's only reasonable to assume that Johnson would have had the opportunity to spread his blues far beyond the flat crossroads of the Mississippi Delta, a development that would have pleased his wandering soul no end.