Back to basics. A voice, a guitar and a tapping foot. Add a mythological bargain with the devil and you have the simple ingredients that can tilt a world on its axis, which the Blues certainly did.
And ground zero was an unassuming share-cropping town situated on the bank of the Mississippi at the intersection of Routes 49 and 61. Clarksdale: the place where Robert Johnson was said to have made his Faustian pact.
Here’s some of the first generation sounds which led up to and were fall-out from that encounter.
Apologies for the sound quality but we are dealing with recordings made almost a century ago!
1 ROBERT JOHNSON-CROSS ROAD BLUES
2 BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON-SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN
3 BESSIE SMITH-BLUE SPIRIT BLUES
4 MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT-STACK O’LEE
5 SON HOUSE-DEATH LETTER BLUES
6 CHARLEY PATTON-SCREAMIN’ AND HOLLERIN’ THE BLUES
7 ROBERT WILKINS-THAT’S NO WAY TO GET ALONG
8 SKIP JAMES-DEVIL GOT MY WOMAN
9 SISTER ROSETTA THARPE-THE DEVIL HAS THROWN HIM DOWN
10 BUKKA WHITE-SHAKE ‘EM ON DOWN
11 LEADBELLY-(BLACK GAL) WHERE DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT
12 VICTORIA SPIVEY & LONNIE JOHNSON-DOPE HEAD BLUES
13 BLIND WILLIE McTELL-TRAVELIN’ BLUES
14 HENRY THOMAS-HONEY WON’T YOU ALLOW ME ONE MORE CHANCE
15 MISSISSIPPI FRED McDOWELL-LEVEE CAMP BLUES
16 MEMPHIS MINNIE-WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS
17 HAMBONE WILLIE NEWBERN-ROLL AND TUMBLE BLUES
18 ONE STRING SAM-I NEED A HUNDRED DOLLARS
19 PINK ANDERSON-IN THE EVENING
20 FLOYD ANDERSON-RUNAWAY MAN BLUES
21 BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON-JOHN THE REVELATOR
22 BIG BILL BROONZY-KEYS TO THE HIGHWAY
23 REVERAND GARY DAVIS-I’M THROWIN’ UP MY ARMS