Robert Johnson – Sweet Home Chicago

Was Robert Johnson the most influential guitarist in the history of blues and rock? That very possibly could be true. It wasn’t until the 80s that I started to read and hear more about him. Reading interviews with Clapton, Jimmy Page, and others…they all owed a huge debt to Johnson.

My introduction to Robert Johnson came from Eric Clapton while playing with Cream. Johnson was a great blues guitarist that supposedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to be able to play the blues. Some of the songs he wrote played into this myth. He only cut 29 songs that he recorded in a two-year period between 1936 and 1937.

Movies such as the 1980s film Crossroads brought Johnson many more fans. Many people have searched for Johnson after listening to artists that were influenced by him. His voice will haunt you after you listen to his recordings. His songs are pure and timeless.

With this song…I heard it before I heard Robert Johnson’s version… I knew the Blues Brothers version of it the best. Robert Johnson is listed as the writer but the origins are before that.  Scrapper Blackwell’s “Kokomo Blues” and Kokomo Arnold’s “Old Original Kokomo Blues,” both similar to Johnson’s original right down to their “baby don’t you want to go” choruses, were recorded years before Johnson first entered a studio but Johnson owns it.

Now when it’s played in movies or sold on CDs… Stephen LaVere’s family gets half the royalties and Johnson’s the other half. LaVere entered the picture in 1973, persuading Johnson’s elderly half-sister Carrie Thompson to sign a contract ceding him 50 percent of the profits from Johnson’s music. He went out and marketed Johnson’s music and it paid off in millions for both parties. 

Sweet Home Chicago

Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?
Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?
Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

Now one and one is two
Two and two is four
I’m heavy loaded, baby
I’m booked, I gotta go

Crying baby
Honey, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

And two and two is four
Four and two is six
You gonna keep monkeyin’ ’round here friend, boy
You’re gonna get you business all in a trick

Crying baby
Honey, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home, Chicago

Now six and two is eight
Eight and two is ten
Friend-boy she trick you one time
She sure gonna do it again

But don’t cry, hey hey!
Baby, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

I’m going to California
From there to Des Moines Iowa
Somebody will tell me that you
Need my help someday

Crying, baby
Baby, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

Robert Johnson – Crossroad Blues

My introduction to Robert Johnson came from Eric Clapton while playing with Cream. Johnson was a great blues guitarist that supposedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to be able to play the blues. Some of the songs he wrote played into this myth. He only cut 29 songs that he recorded in a two year period of 1936 and 1937.

I’m not a blues expert, nor do I play one on tv, but I love these old blues recordings. Johnson wasn’t the only one but they influenced everything I’ve liked since. They are also historical documents of the time.

Robert Johnson’s slide playing was so complete that he sounded like two guitar players instead of one on some songs. The atmosphere of those recordings is incredible to me and something that you can’t duplicate. Johnson’s influence is huge. Keith Richards, Eric Clapton,  Bob Dylan. Duane Allman, and too many more to list.

Movies such as the 1980’s film Crossroads brought Johnson many more fans. My friend Ronald was one of those people and went out and bought everything he could find of Johnson in the 80s. Many people have searched out Johnson after listening to artists that were influenced by him. His voice will haunt you after you listen to his recordings. His songs are pure and timeless.

Some quotes on Robert Johnson

Keith Richards – Brian Jones had the first album, and that’s where I first heard it. I’d just met Brian, and I went around to his apartment-crash pad, actually, all he had in it was a chair, a record player, and a few records. One of which was Robert Johnson. He put it on, and it was just-you know-astounding stuff. When I first heard it, I said to Brian, “Who’s that?” “Robert Johnson”. I said, “Yeah, but who’s the other guy playing with him?” Because I was hearing two guitars, and it took me a long time to realize he was actually doing it all by himself.
Eric Clapton – His music is like my oldest friend, always in the back of my head and on the horizon. It’s the finest music I’ve ever heard.  I’ve always trusted its purity. And I always will.’ I don’t know what more you could say….”
Robert Cray – He is a perfect example of what anybody should listen to if they want to get an understanding of the blues… and American history.’

Below is Robert Johnson and down below is Cream’s version.

Cross Road Blues

I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
Asked the lord above “Have mercy now
save poor Bob if you please”
Yeeooo, standin at the crossroad
tried to flag a ride
ooo ooo eee
I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me babe
everybody pass me by
Standin at the crossroad babe
risin sun goin down
Standin at the crossroad babe
eee eee eee, risin sun goin down
I believe to my soul now,
Poor Bob is sinkin down
You can run, you can run
tell my friend Willie Brown
You can run, you can run
tell my friend Willie Brown
(th)’at I got the croosroad blues this mornin Lord
babe, I’m sinkin down
And I went to the crossroad momma
I looked east and west
I went to the crossroad baby
I looked east and west
Lord, I didn’t have no sweet woman
ooh-well babe, in my distress