Third Photograph of Robert Johnson Revealed for New Book Cover
Until now, the music public has depended upon two iconic photographs of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson: the one with the pinstripe suit and the one with the dangling cigarette (several others have been debunked). Over the years, those two images have been used and repackaged in countless ways for book and album covers, as have some equally iconic artists’ rendering of the composer of “Crossroads,” including the most famous one by artist R. Crumb.
But a memoir titled Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, penned by Johnson’s stepsister Annye C. Anderson with Preston Lauderback, is due for publication June 9, and the original announced cover was changed to this new-to-us photograph. There is an outstanding article in American Songwriter (May 21) about the photo which references an excerpt of the book published in Vanity Fair (May 20).
Anderson recounts the history of the photograph:
There was a make-your-own-photo place on Beale Street, near Hernando Street. I’ve since learned that a man named John Henry Evans owned it. The photo place was right next door to Pee Wee’s, the bar where Mr. Handy wrote his blues. One day when I was 10 or 11 years old, I walked there with Sister Carrie and Brother Robert. I remember him carrying his guitar and strumming as we went. You just walk in, drop a nickel in the slot, pull the curtain, and do it. There was no photographer. I had my picture made. Brother Robert got in the booth, and evidently made a couple.
I kept Brother Robert’s photograph in my father’s trunk that sat in the hallway of the Comas house while we lived there with my mother after my father died. After my mother died, we could only take so many things. I took my photographs with me, wrapped in a handkerchief. I only carried a few belongings to Ma and Pops Thompson’s house. When I moved in with my sister Charlyne, I bought some furniture. I stored the photograph, along with others, in a cedar chest I bought. I’ve always had this photograph.
It shows Brother Robert the way I remember him—open, kind, and generous.He doesn’t look like the man of all the legends, the man described as a drunkard and a fighter by people who didn’t really know him. This is my Brother Robert.
Enjoy this gallery of previous images of Johnson in a variety of media:
This one seems a bit sketchy, though: