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Robert Johnson is acknowledged as perhaps the most accomplished and certainly the most influential, both directly and indirectly, of all blues artists. His music and the myths surrounding him have become a root source for a whole generation of blues and rock-'n'-roll musicians, a visionary artist portraying his time, his place and personal experiences.
Many are the myths about Robert Johnson: doing a deal with the devil at the Crossroads to have the talent to play in return for selling his soul; poisoned by a jealous lover or jealous lover's husband - just two amongst many. But what is known is that a great number of people have been influenced by him. These include Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Jimi Hendrix and many more.
His own influences were persons such as Charlie Patton, Willie Brown, Kokomo Arnold, Son House and Skip James.
Thirty miles south of Jackson, the Mississippi State capital, lies the town of Hazlehurst. Around 1907 a black man, Charles Dodds Jnr, was forced to leave town after an altercation with some white inhabitants. After a change of name to C D Spencer, he settled in Memphis with a mistress and children both from this liaison and from a marriage to one Julie Ann Majors (whom he had left behind in Hazlehurst).
While separated, Julie Ann Majors started an affair with a farm worker called Noah Johnson. On May 8th 1911 she gave birth to their son Robert Lee. By 1914 she was reunited with her husband, Charles, albeit briefly. 1918 found Robert, his mother and nine other children living and working on the Leatherman Plantation, Robinsonville, Commerce, Mississippi with his mother's new lover, Robert 'Dusty' Saunders, also known as Willie 'Dusty' Willis.
By 1927 Robert Lee had left school with little education and was working on the plantation. He used the names Robert Spencer and Robert Sax amongst others, until he was sixteen when he changed it to Johnson, his mother having told him who his father was.