When I was a kid, I was absolutely enchanted, and there is no better word for how I felt then ‘enchanted’, by the story I had learned about a man who faced the Devil at the Crossroads and struck a deal with the Devil to become the best and the fiercest, despite the fact it would doom him, Blues Guitarist ever.
The Devil himself gave Robert Johnson what he wanted and in the end the Devil got what he wanted too.
I should clear a few things up here.
First of all I heard the story about Robert Johnson before I ever heard his music- it was one more scary story that my childhood brain soaked in and on it’s own it grew to epic proportions.
By the time I heard Johnson’s music I was playing the guitar on my own and I understand how having those long sleek fingers helped Johnson to play the way he did. In fact I developed- as my teacher put it – ‘ a freakishly long reach ‘ with my own left hand despite the fact my hands are small and pretty much what you would expect to see on an average size woman.
But lo and behold it did help me with my technique.
Along with that I had been learning about the politics of being a musician and I had a good idea about why established guys who he would have been in competition with Robert Johnson for gigs ran around and told everybody that Johnson couldn’t play.
On with the story,.
By the time Johnson came back a year later, so the story goes, he had improved with Supernatural speed and had the skills of the Devil himself.
Of course, the guys who were initially saw Robert Johnson as competition and claimed he was talentless had probably become secure in their own abilities and their focus shifted from the outside to the inside.
Besides, it face saving to say Johnson must have struck a deal with Satan then admit you were a scared little wimp who was afraid to hold his own against another musician-especially since that is what you do every time you play.
The reality of who Robert Johnson was and what his real story was is just as tragic and dark as the legend that grew around him.
But that’s another story and much of it was lost to history.
But still, that story about a man who faced the Devil at the Crossroads and went on to his fate with nothing but his guitar and a ticking clock attached to his soul still enchants me.
In my mind, that Robert Johnson has taken his place among the greatest characters of the supernatural- his spirit is the type of spirit that I go out go to the Cross Roads and look for when I want to find a story to tell.