Robert Johnson: A Centennial Observance

10 p.m. to Midnight Host: Steve Winters

Though not famous when his landmark recordings were made in 1936 and 1937, Robert Johnson’s Mississippi Delta blues — marked by his African-influenced call-and-response vocal techniques and his complex single-string guitar work — has become a major influence on several generations of musicians since the initial reissue of his recordings in 1961. Guitarist extraordinaire Eric Clapton characterized Johnson as the “most important blues singer that ever lived.”

May 8 marked the 100th anniversary of his birth in Mississippi and for the third time Columbia Records has reissued the 42 Johnson recordings (including alternative takes) that still exist, recorded in 1936 in San Antonio and in 1937 in Dallas. Johnson would die a year later on Aug. 15, 1938 at age 27, the victim of a poisoned glass of whiskey given him by a jealous husband.

This program features one of the periodic “shows within a show” that we offer, a one-hour special produced by Joyride Media that deftly probes what little is actually known about Johnson's short life and links with Columbia/Legacy Records’ repackaging of Johnson’s work in the two-CD set, “Robert Johnson: The Centennial Collection”.

The program opened with tunes currently featured in my motor vehicle’s CD player and ended with a collection of covers of Robert Johnson material.

  • Artist, "Title", Album, Label

  • Janita Baker, “Sweet Home Chicago”, Blues & Ragtime, Independent


  • David Holt & The Lightning Bolts, “Johnson Boys”, David Holt & The Lightning Bolts, High Windy Audio

  • Paul Mills, “The Dallas Rag”, “Doc’s Guitar”, The Other Side Of The Glass, Borealis

  • David Holt & The Lightning Bolts, “Ready For The Times To Get Better”, “The Cuckoo”, David Holt & The Lightning Bolts, High Windy Audio


  • David Bromberg, “Mr. Bojangles”, “The New Lee Highway Blues”, The Best Of David Bromberg, Columbia


  • Eric Clapton & The Powerhouse, “Cross Roads”, White Bicycles, Fledg’ling Records

  • Guy Davis, “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day”, Stomp Down Rider, Red House

  • Robert Jr. Lockwood, “Little Queen Of Spades”, Blues Routes, Smithsonian Folkways

  • Rory Block, “Hell Hound On My Trail”, When A Woman Gets The Blues, Rounder

  • Paul Geremia, “Travelin’ Riverside Blues”, Live From Uncle Sam’s Backyard, Red House