Robert Johnson was born in 1911 in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. That’s the famed Delta region, whose swampy morass of poverty and oppression birthed the Blues. He was a rambler, that Johnson, but much of his short life was spent in the Delta.
Story goes, Robert Johnson disappeared one day. When he came back, he had a guitar strapped to his back and a distinct take on the Delta Blues.
Story goes, that during that missing time he sold his soul to the Devil, who appeared as a giant black man.
Story goes, he did it at a crossroads.
Regardless, the Devil did eventually get his due. Both of Johnson’s wives died during childbirth and Johnson himself went to the Great Below in 1938 at age 27. His cause of death is unknown, but rumored to be poison at that hands of a jealous husband. Johnson left behind 29 songs, three gravestones, and a controversy over whether his recordings were sped up or not. Today, his legend looms large. And that crossroad? It’s been paved. And not with good intentions.
People place his fabled crossroads all over the region. But only one place has capitalized on it. Claimed it. Worked it into its geography, so to speak. And, since we were passing through Mississippi, we decided to go see it.
And in a way, it had.
The crossroads was a busy mess of automobiles and highways, telephone pole wires and traffic lights, stores and restaurants. Were Johnson to have fallen down on his knees at these crossroads, he’d have been run over by rubber tires and rolled into a pitted parking lot. It was…ugly. I understood the Devil to have a greater sense of ambiance.
All around us, stores were named after his crossroads. Crossroads Furniture. Crossroads Market. I wanted to immediately go out into the middle of the intersection, but we had lunch to attend to first. Right near the spot is a place is placed called Abe’s Bar-B-Q. Been in business since 1924. Johnson was a teenager when this place first started cutting up pigs.
Again, not mine. Mine sucks.