Something New

Jim Adams hosts a weekly song lyric challenge on his blog, A Unique Title For Me. It’s called “Song Lyric Sunday” and the prompt for today is: Harmony/Melody/Music.

I’ve never responded to Jim’s challenge before but that prompt… well, it struck a chord!

My contribution is “Sing To The World,” an original song that I posted about here on sixstrstories in December, 2013.

I wrote the song – more of a hymn, actually – back in 1996 with inspiration from a variety of sources including Rev. David Slater, Lech Walesa, Sir Isaac Watts and Woody Guthrie.

I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s the link to Jim’s blog: Song Lyric Sunday.

Sing To The World

Words, Music, Guitar & Vocals by Eric Sinclair

Sing to the world a new song, sing with a joyful heart
Sing to the world a song that welcomes all with open arms
Sing to the world with countless voices joined in harmony
Sing to the world a new song that all the world can sing.

Sing to the world far and wide, sing with sparkling eyes
Sing to the world a song that keeps the flame of hope alive
Sing to the world that we may find a path to common ground
Sing to the world a song that calls us all to gather ‘round.

Sing to the world hand in hand, sing with love revealed
Sing to the world a song that knows how songs should make us feel
Sing to the world a song that shares its smile with ev’ry face
Sing to the world a song that holds the world in a warm embrace.

Sing to the world loud and long, sing with sounding joy
Sing to the world a song that fills the air with wond’rous noise
Sing to the world a song of peace to ring through ev’ry land
Sing to the world a song for ev’ry woman, child and man.

© ® 1996 EFS Music/BMI

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Some Kind Of Smelling Salts

“Music. What is it good for? Why do you seek it?”

Journalist Christopher Hislop, skilled chronicler of the large and vibrant music scene here in my neck of the woods, poses those questions to everyone he interviews for his weekly column, 5 Spot. (5 Spot appears in EDGE, the “Everything Arts & Entertainment From The Seacoast To The Tri-City Region” magazine that arrives with my Thursday edition of Foster’s Daily Democrat.)

My answer to those questions would be, as you might imagine, not short. A part of it however, would simply be: “Music is the best caffeine.”

Not all music, of course, but a distinct selection of creations and performances that I find to be deliciously intoxicating, undeniably invigorating and unapologetically addictive.

Thus, sixstrstories’ newest category: Some Kind Of Smelling Salts.

Ta da!

The title comes from “Recovery,” a song by Frank Turner.

I started listening to Frank Turner after his song “The Way I Tend To Be” burst from my radio one day back in 2013. Soon after, I picked up a copy of his then-newest and highly recommended album, Tape Deck Heart. (Yes, I actually went to a brick-and-mortar music store and purchased the CD!) “Recovery” was the first song on the disc.

Oh, my.

The line, “Some kind of smelling salts,” culminates the song’s second verse and occurs at the 1:12 mark in the recording.


No, really. You’ve got to listen to this.


See what I mean?

“Recovery” was recorded by Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls.

  • Frank Turner – Words & Music, Vocals & Acoustic Guitar
  • Tarrant Anderson – Bass & Backing Vocals
  • Ben Lloyd – Electric Guitar & Backing Vocals
  • Matt Nasir – Keyboards & Backing Vocals
  • Nigel Powell – Drums, Percussion & Backing Vocals
  • and Rich Costey – Electric Guitar (Mr. Costey also produced, recorded and mixed the track.)

So, Some Kind Of Smelling Salts is going to feature songs from my personal playlist of musical stimulants & audio caffeine delivery systems. Listening not for the faint of heart.

Stay tuned!

Do you have music that gets your motor running? Lights a fire in your engine room?

That always takes you higher? Makes you jump a little lighter?

That doesn’t just make you want to shout, but throw your hands up and shout?

That puts the whop in your bop ba looma?

If so, please let me know.

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To The Museum, Once Again

This is my third post about the guitars on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

The first – A Trip To The Museum – went up on March 13, 2014. It features three very old guitars (circa 1628, 1680 & 1725) found in the MFA’s “Musical Instruments” gallery. The second post – Another Trip To The Museum – appeared on September 2, 2017. It features three newer guitars (circa 1840, 1954 & 1964) also (still!) to be found in Gallery #103.

On my latest trip to 465 Huntington Avenue this past January, I visited Level 3 of the MFA’s Art of America wing and took a close look at the two gorgeous guitars on display there.

The two musical works of art share a tall square glass case. The case stands just about in the middle of the floor in the back gallery on the right hand side of Level 3. Both instruments are products of the National String Instrument Corporation.

(The National String Instrument Corporation was formed in 1927 in Los Angeles, California by John Dopyera and George Beauchamp. The company manufactured the first resonator guitars.)

The acoustic guitar pictured below is a Tri-Cone Resonator guitar built in 1934. Its body is made of nickel alloy plated with nickel silver.

Here is a photo of the guitar that hangs in the case behind the resonator guitar.

This electric instrument is a Lap Steel Guitar, the “New Yorker” model, made in 1947. It is made of wood and plastic.

Both of these remarkable guitars are meant to be played “Hawaiian” style: the instrument lies horizontally across the player’s lap and the strings are “fretted” with a round steel bar or glass tube (or bottle) held in the player’s left hand. The player picks the strings finger style with his/her right hand. Hawaiian music with its distinctive swooping, sliding and melodious lead guitar was immensely popular in the United States during the first decades of the 20th century.

These instruments, and the others on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, remind me that what I always say is so very true: “The world of guitar is a vast, wonderful and fascinating place.”

P.S.: Level 3 of the Art of America wing at the MFA is also home to two of my favorite paintings: Number 10 (1949) by Jackson Pollock and Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors – 7th Avenue Style (1940) by Stuart Davis.

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Truck Day

Truck Day is the day celebrated each year by the fans of the Boston Red Sox Baseball Team as the “official” start of the new baseball season. It is the day that the team’s equipment truck begins its journey from Fenway Park in Boston to Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers, Florida for the start of Spring Training.

Truck Day 2019 is today, Monday, February 4.

Starting at 7:00 am, the 53-foot-long truck will be loaded with a wide assortment of essential baseball supplies and equipment including:

  • 20,400 baseballs
  • 1,100 baseball bats
  • 160 white game jerseys
  • 400 t-shirts
  • 400 pairs of socks
  • 20 cases of bubble gum
  • 60 cases of sunflower seeds

The truck will be driven on its 1,480-mile trip for the 21st consecutive year by Mr. Al Hartz of Milford, Massachusetts. Participants in this year’s event will include the team’s mascots Wally the Green Monster and his sister Tessie.

All fans and media outlets are invited to join in on the celebration.

One of these years, I hope to be there myself.

Meanwhile, the new schedule is printed and ready to hang on the front of the fridge…

…and I’ll keep singing…


Go Red Sox! Do it again!


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Walkin’ Blues

It was a Saturday morning in the middle of January.

I was out for a long walk with my favorite accompaniment: my iPod classic, set to “Shuffle Songs,” playing through my Sony headphones. I’d been serenaded by Billie Holiday, The Beatles, Etta James, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Josh Ritter and Gillian Welch.

Then I heard an acoustic guitar playing a Blues turnaround. Another acoustic guitar joined in and the duo started picking through a very fine 12-bar instrumental.

“Who’s this?,” I thought.

The layer of scratch crackling in the background signaled that this was a old recording. Was it one of those Sylvester Weaver & Walter Beasley duets? If so, there should be some slide guitar…

…then a singer entered in, and I really had no idea.

“Four-o’clock flowers bloom out in the mornin’ and close in the afternoon

 Four-o’clock flowers bloom out in the mornin’ and close in the afternoon

 Well, well, they are only so much beauty, woo hoo, Lord, boy, so as my little Betty June.” 

I really enjoyed the recording. A very good Blues singer/guitarist joined by a talented lead guitarist who surrounded the vocals with a constant stream of tasty guitar fills and licks. After three verses, the duo laid down an excellent solo chorus after which two more vocal verses wrapped things up quite nicely.

When I got home, I got my gloves off, dug the iPod out of the deep pocket of my heavy winter coat and checked the listing on the display screen.

I’d been listening to “Four O’Clock Flower Blues” by William Brown from the album, The Land Where The Blues Began.


Turns out that “Four O’Clock Flower Blues” was a field recording, featuring not only guitarist William Brown but also singer/guitarist Willie Blackwell. The duo had been recorded by Alan Lomax, on a cultural mission from The Library of Congress to record Delta folk songs.

Here’s the library card from the Library of Congress.

The location was called Hamp’s Place – a shack in the middle of an enormous cotton field that served as a country store by day and a dance hall and gambling joint by night – on Sadie Beck’s Plantation in Arkansas. The date was July 16, 1942.

Listen for yourself!


I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.

Willie “61” Blackwell, as he came to be known, recorded seven other songs that day for Alan Lomax. William Brown recorded three solo pieces. One of them, “Mississippi Blues,” has been regarded as the “Stairway To Heaven” of Mississippi Delta Blues.

Looks like I’ve got some more listening to do!

“Good music doesn’t get old.”

The sources for the information used in this post were:

The Land Where The Blues Began by Alan Lomax, 1993. Published in paperback by The New Press, 2002. (Highly recommended!)

The William Brown – Mississippi Blues page at

The Library of Congress at


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This Historic Day In Music: Atlantic Records SD 8216

I wish I could tell you that I remember when I first heard them, but I can’t. I do remember that in 1969, starting in the middle of my sophomore year of high school, I was crazy about the new band from England called Led Zeppelin.

My guess would be that I first heard Led Zeppelin on the radio since I was a devoted listener in those days to WBCN, 104.1 FM, broadcasting from Boston, Massachusetts.

‘BCN was simply the best Rock radio station ever and they were always premiering a cut from the latest album by all the greatest bands, old and new. So I probably first heard Led Zeppelin beckoning from the black, boxy Philco AM/FM radio that graced my bedside table.

Led Zeppelin’s first LP Led Zeppelin was released on Atlantic Records on January 12, 1969.

I started listening to Led Zeppelin again a few days ago and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The thing that really struck me was the dazzling array of guitar sounds that Jimmy Page created and spread across the span of the album’s nine often lengthy tracks. There is the tight metallic crunch of the power chords in “Good Times Bad Times,” the rich, woody acoustic arpeggios of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” and the thickly oozing, super-saturated lead guitar lines in “You Shook Me.”

I should also mention the swooping Country-tinged pedal steel on “Your Time Is Gonna Come,” the fingerpicked jangle of the DADGAD-tuned acoustic on “Black Mountain Side,” and the echo-soaked, psychedelicized swirl that permeates “How Many More Times.”

But wait! There’s more!

Led Zeppelin is a grand master class in the limitless tonal possibilities of the guitar.

So, what track from Led Zeppelin should I add to this post for your listening pleasure?

After much consideration, I decided on Track 3: “You Shook Me.”


After all the cozy familiarity of listening again to “Good Times Bad Times” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” “You Shook Me” took me by surprise.

The first instrumental solo in this slow and luxuriously long Blues is taken by John Paul Jones on the organ! And that organ solo is followed by Robert Plant’s harmonica solo! Then comes Jimmy Page’s guitar solo!

Wow. Hadn’t remembered that.

Listen for yourself!


The musicians of Led Zeppelin were:

  • John Bonham: drums, tympani & backing vocals
  • John Paul Jones: bass, organ & backing vocals
  • Jimmy Page: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, pedal steel guitar & backing vocals
  • Robert Plant: lead vocals & harmonica
  • Viram Jasani: tabla drums on “Black Mountain Side.”

One last thing that I remember about being a Led Zeppelin fan in a small New Hampshire high school in the winter of 1969 is that no one except me and my good friend, Tom, knew who they were!

Our little secret, of course, did not last for long.

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This Historic Day In Music: Elizabeth Cotten – Take 4

“Take 4?!”

That’s correct.

Elizabeth Nevills Cotten was born on January 5, 1893, in Carrboro (right next to Chapel Hill), North Carolina. And the story of how little Elizabeth grew up to become a guitarist, singer, songwriter, performer and Grammy-award winning recording artist is one that I am more than happy to tell over and over and over again.

This time, however, I’m going to let Elizabeth – or Libba, as she came to be known – tell her story herself.

The following italicized excerpts are from an article by Alice Gerrard* that first appeared as the cover story in the January 1980 issue of Frets magazine. I have the article in a collection published in 1986 by GPI Publications (edited by Phil Hood) called: Artists of Amercian Folk Music: The Legends of Traditional Folk, the Stars of the Sixties, the Virtuosi of New Acoustic Music.

Ms. Gerrard concludes the first part of the article with: “Here now, in her own words, are Libba Cotten’s recollections on her upbringing, and her thoughts on her career and her music.”

I wasn’t 12 years old and I went to work for this lady, Miss Ada Copeland. She paid me 75 cents a month. I was a lot of help to her. So she said to my mother, “We’re going to raise little Sissie’s wages.” So they gave me a dollar a month. And if you think about it, it sounds like little enough money; but in them days for a child it might’ve been a good price. But anyway, I saved my money and bought me a guitar.

There was only one place in Chapel Hill at that time that you could buy a guitar; that was Mr. Gene Kates’ place. He said, “Aunt Lou, I’ll tell you the truth. As long as you and your little girl wants a guitar so bad, you can have it for $3.75.” And the name of that guitar was Stella. And I liked my guitar so very, very much, and that’s when I began to learn how to play.

I started playing, learning different little tunes on it. I’d get one little string and then add another little string to it and get a little sound, then start playing.

When I learned one little tune, I’d be so proud of that, that I’d want to learn another. Then I’d just keep sitting up, trying. The way I do, I play it to my own sound, the way I think it sounds.

You just put the sounds together, and what sounds right you just go with it. And all of them little things I play, that’s the way I got it. I can’t read music. You just get a song and know it and just keep fooling around with it till you get it to sound like you want it to sound.

On November 7, 1910, Elizabeth Nevills married Frank Cotten. Lillie, their daughter and only child, was born a year later. Soon Elizabeth did not have time for playing the guitar.

Over the years, the Cotten family lived in Chapel Hill, New York City and Washington, D.C. After Lillie grew up and got married, Elizabeth and Frank were divorced. Elizabeth, with Lillie and her growing family, eventually settled down together in Washington, D.C. Elizabeth helped to raise her grandchildren and took various day jobs around the city.

I applied at Lansburgh’s Department Store for work before the holidays; that must have been ’47 or ’48, somewhere along there. They hired me and they gave me a job up on the fifth floor with dolls. Mrs. Seeger [composer Ruth Crawford Seeger] came in the store. She bought two dolls from me and a little lamb. She brought her two girls with her. While the dolls were getting wrapped, Peggy wandered off. I found Peggy. When I brought her back to her mother, her mother says to me, “Have you worked here long” and I told her, “No.” And she says, “If you ever decide to stop working here, here’s my telephone number. Give me a ring sometime.” So when I stopped working for Lansburgh’s I did call her, and I took the job to give them lunch on Saturdays and dinner, plus the other work I was doing.

Elizabeth found herself in a household overflowing with music. Mrs. Seeger was a piano teacher as well as being a composer. Charles Seeger, her husband, was a musician and a musicologist. Their four children – Mike, Peggy, Barbara and Penny – sang and played a multitude of instruments including piano, guitar, banjo and autoharp.

I had forgot I could play guitar. Then when I went to work for them I heard all that music. I said “I used to could play the guitar,” and I decided to play it. I got Peggy’s guitar and started playing. I was just playing what I had learned how to play down in Chapel Hill, and the more I could play it the better I could play it.

The Seegers took notice. Peggy asked Elizabeth to give her a few guitar lessons. Mike started recording Elizabeth playing her guitar and singing her songs in 1952.

One of those first recordings was released in 1997 by Smithsonian Folkways Records on the album Close To Home: Old Time Music From Mike Seeger’s Collection, 1952-1967. “In The Sweet Bye And Bye” was recorded on November 29, 1952 in the Seeger home in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


In 1958, Folkways Records released Elizabeth’s first album, “Recorded with an introduction and notes on the songs by Mike Seeger.” The original title for the 14-track collection was Negro Folk Songs and Tunes. This was soon changed to Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar, only to be changed again in 2002 to: Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes.


The first track on the LP is “Wilson Rag.” Mike’s liner notes describe the instrumental as “A good example of the country ragtime style, as Elizabeth Cotten calls it, that might be played at cornshucking parties.”


The second track is the original recording of Elizabeth Cotten’s most famous song: “Freight Train.” Mike noted: “When Elizabeth Cotten and her brothers were playing music together each would have songs that they called their own, and this was one that she made up and sang as hers.”


There are three other albums of Elizabeth Cotten’s music. “Shake Sugaree, Vol.2” and “When I’m Gone” were released by Folkways Records in 1965. Arhoolie Records released a collection of concert recordings in 1984 titled “Elizabeth Cotten – Live!”

“Elizabeth Cotten – Live!” was awarded the Grammy Award in 1985 for “Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording.”

Finally, Elizabeth concluded her recollections to Alice Gerrard with this to say about her performing career.

I’m trying to do what people want to hear. So each time I just try to do a whole lot of singin’ and a whole lot of talking. I try to do it all to suit them. That’s what keeps me going now. Look like I been tellin’ it 20 years. They ought to know everything about me – ain’t no more to know. I done tell them everything from childhood up, from 11 years to 87. Now what can I tell? So that’s like it is.

But it’s a little easier than workin’, sure enough.

Elizabeth Cotten performed in her last concert at City College in New York City on February 22, 1987.

She passed away in Syracuse, New York on June 29, 1987.

Smithsonian Folkways Records lists Elizabeth Cotten as a Master of American Folk Music. They rightly conclude that “the true measure of her legacy lies with the tens of thousands of guitarists who cherish her songs as a favorite part of their repertoires, preserving and keeping alive her unique musical style.”

This Historic Day In Music: Elizabeth Cotten – Take 4.

“Take 4?!”

It won’t be the last!

*Alice Gerrard is an accomplished singer, banjo player, guitarist, performer and recording artist. She was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2017.

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Old Long Since – Take 2

ICYWW (In Case You Were Wondering): This past November, I added a co-motto to my blog. “Good music doesn’t get old” by Ferdinand Joseph “Jelly Roll Morton” LaMothe, my original motto, was joined by a quote from Bruce Springsteen: “All valuable stories need to be told over and over and over again.”Henceforth, any post with a “Take 2” in the title is a revisitation of an older post with a story that I thought was worth telling again.


From 1956 to 1976, most American New Year’s Eve celebrations – and certainly the ones that rocked the Sinclair household in Exeter, New Hampshire – included watching the CBS television broadcast of the party going on at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

The house band at the Waldorf Astoria was Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. They made the kind of music that could only be described as “The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven” and their rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” was the first piece that they played every one of those 21 years just after the clock struck “12.”


The words and melody of  the song “Auld Lang Syne” as we know it today first came together in print in 1799 in a British publication entitled A Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs.

According to The Book of World-Famous Music, 5th Edition (2000), by James J. Fuld, the general attribution of  “Auld Lang Syne” to the Welsh poet Robert Burns is a “point of controversy.”

“It is generally agreed,” Fuld writes, “that (Burns) was not the author of the words of the first verse  – although it is not impossible that it underwent some revision by him – and in most cases the first is the only verse people know.”

Again according to Fuld, “The earliest version of the words with the title Old-Long-Syne and the opening line, ‘Should old Acquaintance be forgot,'” is dated 1711. The “germ of the melody” goes back to 1687 and was published under the title The Duke of Bucclugh’s Tune.

Here, for your New Year’s Eve listening pleasure, is my fingerstyle acoustic guitar rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.”

In case you’d like to sing along…

“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind,

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne my dear, for auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”


Happy New Year’s Eve and all the best to you and yours in 2019.

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The New Possibility – Take 2

I started learning how to play the guitar because I thought it would provide a better accompaniment to my singing than playing the drums did.

At the time, I had no idea that there was a way to play a song on the guitar so that it would sound like the guitar itself was singing the song.

John Fahey introduced me to this possibility and he showed me that it was a very cool thing to be able to do.

John Fahey (Feb.28, 1939 – Feb.22, 2001) was a fingerstyle guitarist who primarily played the steel-string acoustic guitar. From his first album – 1959’s Blind Joe Death – and on through the other 35 studio and live albums released during his lifetime, John Fahey pioneered, popularized and perpetuated a genre of music he referred to as “American Primitive Guitar.”

In 1968, he released an album entitled The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album.

There had never been an album of holiday music played on acoustic guitar in the Merle Travis/Elizabeth Cotten/Country Blues-based fingerpicking style before this one.

In later years, Fahey recounted what gave him the idea to make such a record.

“I was in the back of a record store in July and I saw all these cartons of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas albums. The clerk said it always sells out.”

In the liner notes on the original LP jacket, Fahey gives credit to 20th Century German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher Paul Tillich for referring to the birth of Jesus Christ as “The New Possibility.”

“The birth of this New Possibility,” Fahey wrote, “has nothing to do with Christmas trees, presents, Santa Claus, and little to do with superstitious thoughts regarding virgin births, astrologers, bodily ascensions of virgins, etc. The New Possibility is rather the gift of reconciliation between God and man.”

Regarding his arrangements of the holiday pieces on the album, Fahey’s liner notes explained: “The songs are, wherever possible, syncopated, not because I feel that syncopation or ‘swinging the carols’ is more in keeping ‘with the times,’ but simply because I prefer to play them the way I do.”

Regarding his performances, Fahey told an interviewer in 1979: “There are more mistakes on this album than on any of the other 17 albums I’ve recorded.” However, The New Possibility proved to be one of his best selling albums.

I don’t remember when I bought my copy, but the very first time I listened to The New Possibility I was amazed and immediately intrigued. This LP has proven to be immensely influential in my guitar playing. It is one of my favorite records during the holidays and at any time of the year.

Here’s what I heard the first time I dropped the needle on Side 1 of this LP.


I hope you enjoyed that.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and the best of everything to you and yours in 2019.

“Good music doesn’t get old.”

“All valuable stories need to be told over and over and over again.”

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This Historic Day In Music: November 27, 1936, The Gunter Hotel, Rm.414, San Antonio, Texas – Take 2

On Friday, November 27, 1936, Robert Johnson, a 25-year-old Blues musician from Mississippi, had his third recording session for ARC Records.

The location of these sessions was The Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. The ARC recording crew of A & R man Don Law and engineer Art Satherley had converted Rm.414 into a recording studio for the duration of their several weeks stay in San Antonio.

Johnson’s first session had been on the previous Monday, November 23. It had been quite productive, with a master disc of each of eight songs recorded, and an equally-fine, alternate take “safety” disc made of most of those eight as well.

Among the songs recorded on the 23rd were: “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and “Terraplane Blues.”

On Thursday, November 26, Johnson recorded again, but cut only one master. The song was “32-20 Blues.”

November 26 was, however, a busy day for the men from ARC. They recorded a white gospel group known as the Chuck Wagon Gang and the Mexican musicians Andres Berlanga and Francisco Montalvo with Robert Johnson in-between.

On Friday, Novmber 27, Johnson got to go first in Rm.414.

He started off with two “hokum” tunes, “They’re Red Hot” and “Dead Shrimp Blues.”

Then Robert Johnson got down to business.

In this order, the singer/guitarist recorded “Cross Road Blues,” “Walkin’ Blues,” “Last Fair Deal Gone Down,” “Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)” and “If I Had Possesion Over Judgement Day.”

Years later, Don Law would remember Robert Johnson as being “slender, handsome, of medium height, with beautiful hands.” He also described him in the recording studio as “embarrassed and suffering from a bad case of stage fright, Johnson turned his face to the wall, his back to the Mexican musicians. Eventually he calmed down sufficiently to play, but he never faced his audience.”

In an article about Robert Johnson published in the September 1990 issue of Guitar Player Magazine,  author Jas Obrecht quotes guitarist Ry Cooder’s challenge to this account.

“Listen to Johnson’s singing and his forceful personality. This is a guy who was afraid of his audience? Hell, no! This is a ‘chew them up and spit them out’ kind of guy. I’ll tell you what he was doing. I think he was sitting in the corner to achieve a certain sound that he liked.”

“Find yourself a plaster corner,” Cooder goes on, “without wallpaper or curtains sometime – all those hotel rooms were plaster. Go and sit facing the corner with your guitar tight up against the corner, play, and see what it sounds like. What you get is something called ‘corner loading.’ It’s an acoustic principle that eliminates most of the top end and most of the bottom end and amplifies the middle, the same thing that a metal guitar or an electric guitar does. He wants to hear wang!”

Listen for yourself.


The first record that ARC released from these sessions was “Terraplane Blues” b/w “Kind Hearted Woman Blues.” This was #03416 on the Vocalion records label. It hit the stores on January 4, 1937.

Thanks to the commercial success of “Terraplane Blues,” Robert Johnson recorded again for ARC, on June 19 & 20, 1937 in Dallas, Texas.

Sadly, Robert Johnson died under mysterious circumstances on August 16, 1938 near Greenwood, Mississippi.

The 13 recordings he made at the Dallas sessions combined with the 16 he cut in San Antonio brought his complete catalogue to a grand total of 29 songs.

29 songs.

In 1961, Columbia Records released an LP containing 16 of Robert Johnson’s songs, including five from the sessions of November 27, 1936.

The LP was entitled: The King of the Delta Blues Singers.

“Good music doesn’t get old.”

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