Hazlehurst to unveil Robert Johnson blues trail marker

Published 7:17 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A blues trail marker will be unveiled Thursday signifying the birthplace of legendary Delta blues musician Robert Johnson.

The city of Hazlehurst will unveil the marker near the city’s historic train depot at 4 p.m.

Johnson recorded only 29 songs during two recording sessions in 1936 and 1937, but his work went on to be performed by countless blues and rock musicians since.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Johnson wrote “Me and the Devil Blues,” “Crossroads Blues” and “Rambling on My Mind.” Eric Clapton in 2004 assembled a tribute album, “Me and Mr. Johnson,” which was nominated for a Grammy.

Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, but was living near Robinsonville, just south of Memphis, by 1920. He traveled around the Mississippi Delta and to other parts of the country, including Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, New York, and even Canada.

Another blues marker honoring Johnson went up in May 2007 outside Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, near Greenwood.

The bluesman is buried either in a cemetery adjacent to that church or outside Payne Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Quito or Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Morgan City.

Officials with the Mississippi Blues Commission have said it is widely believed that Johnson is buried at Little Zion because there was an eyewitness.

As the story goes, Johnson was poisoned by a cuckolded husband who learned of the bluesman’s dalliance with his wife. He was only 27 when he died on Aug. 16, 1938. His and the history of other blues musicians draw hundreds of tourists to Mississippi each year.

Johnson’s legend is that he made a deal with the Devil to trade his soul in exchange for becoming a great blues musician.

In 2006, Robert Johnson’s family accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award during the Grammy Awards.