Clio Logo

Part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, this historical marker shares the story of Robert Johnson who was born around Hazelhurst in either 1911 or 1912. Johnson's personal life is shrouded in mystery partly owing to the lack of records of his birth along with the shortness of his life. Johnson was a traveling musician in the Great Depression, and his work might have died with him had it not been for two recordings made in the two years preceding his death in 1938. Thanks to those recordings, musicians of the era heard some of his songs like Sweet Home Chicago, Cross Roads Blues, and Dust My Broom. Johnson's unique sound would influence other Delta Blues musicians like Muddy Waters, and several recording artists and talent scouts tried to find Johnson after hearing those recordings only to discover that he had passed away. Folk tales suggest that Johnson made a Faustian deal with the devil at a mysterious intersection known only as the "crossroads." According to this story, the devil agreed to tune Johnson's guitar which made the previously unknown musician the greatest in the world, a story that only grew owing to the fact that Johnson was not alive to deny or corroborate the story. From Eric Clapton to BB King, Robert Johnson is cited as an influence. Just as the details of his birth are unknown, there are several places that might be his gravesite, and over a dozen places sited as the location of the legendary "crossroads."

Robert Johnson

Clothing, Musical instrument, Guitar, Photograph

The marker is located between a historic train depot and a red caboose

Daytime, Motor vehicle, Font, Sky

Johnson was likely born in a small house in the northern outskirts of Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Possibly born between 1907 and 1912, but also likely on the specific day of May 8th, 1911 (sources vary), little is known about Johnson’s family or early life other than the fact that he lived in Memphis shortly after he was born. Memphis is where he first heard the blues as a child. In the 1930s, Johnson returned to his hometown and trained his skills as a guitar player. He had begun making a name for himself, playing on street corners and juke joints. Due to his incredible talent as a guitarist, people began to make a story that he met the devil and sold his soul to become the greatest guitarist in the South.

Amond the small number of Johnson's recorded songs, “Traveling Riverside Blues," "Crossroad Blues," "Ramblin’ on My Mind," and "Kindhearted Woman,” influenced future musicians. One song, "Me and the Devil," Helped to boost the popularity of his infernal legend. Eric Clapton has said on numerous occasions that Robert Johnson is one of his biggest influences. Johnson died on August 16, 1938, in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Commission, Mississippi Blues. Robert Johnson Birthplace. Mississippi Blues Trail. Accessed November 11, 2017.

Johnson, S.. Biography. Robert Johnson Blues Foundation. Accessed November 12, 2017.

Ugwu, Reggie. “Overlooked No More: Robert Johnson, Bluesman Whose Life Was a Riddle.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2019, 

Image Sources(Click to expand),Mississippi.jpg