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Robert Johnson Lesson Story


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What seems like about a hundred years ago, I had a Friday night out with a couple of friends and it was someone else's turn to drive...lookout! We took turns driving usually.


Surprisingly, I got pissed.


The nominated driver got annoyed with me and left me there in the middle of nowhere with some other drunks I knew. A workmate of my mate lived down the road a bit and he said we could crash there - we walked there somehow having a lot of fun! It turned out to be a weird shack the guy had just bought and was going to fix, but aha, not started on the fix yet. Poor little place leaned about 45 degrees to the left. A bag of stuff was produced to share around and of course I ended up face down on the ground outside. Later (much) they dragged me in and dumped me on top of a sleeping bag.


When I awoke next day, the sun was belting in the window with no curtains and the head really hurt etc. Somehow the others had gone to work and left me alone there in this awful shack about 100 miles from my house.




There was coffee but nothing to eat. And a strange dog with a tongue problem. After drinking lots of the coffee, stomach said it wanted food, so I splashed my face and headed down the road to a main road to find something. The dog came with me. I walked forever and came to a truck stop, got some food and supplies and hitched back to the shack and a guy in a Mustang picked me and the dog up!


Back at the shack waiting for my friend to come home from work so he could give me a ride to somewhere if not home, I noticed there was no tv or radio but a little dusty stereo in the corner with one record on it.....Robert Johnson Greatest Hits.


I have been trying to play that stuff one way or another ever since. I also delved into the roots of RJ to help learn it. Hard to come by lessons in this stuff, I tell you.



There were a number of books with Tab a few years back which helped....I think, but mostly we had to learn by stealth.



So after all these years, I looked at the Stefan Grossman website and guess what - Tom Feldmann has done a 3 dvd set of lessons on Robert Johnson for Stefan Grossman Guitar Workshop. The lot! All 29 tunes.



No affiliation here, but I have already downloaded the E version.....should keep me busy for a hour or so..........HA!


So there you go - as easy as that!









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Ya need to go to the cemetery at Beaugrgeard, MS. This, according to legend, was Ike Zinnerman/Zimmerman's favorite place to play.


But the only way to learn for me remains to take the needle and drop it on the record over and over again. Then throw away what does not work for you and let what your fingers like to do with no coaxing take over.

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I don't really want to hang around a graveyard, ZW - I have never recovered from the hand grabbing the actor on the ankle in the Steven King movie!



And MPicker, I probably shortened the story a bit to fit, and my friends at the time would probably tell a very different story like ....he ate the whole bag of chips (stuff?), and he never had a turn as nominated driver because no-one would get in a car with me driving anymore after a little incident where we got turned around in a fairly wild skid and ended up facing the other way on the other side of the road.....but the essence of the story is true! I have done a lot of work on the background blues of RJ...Lonnie J, Willie J, Son House etc, so when I play an RJ tune, I wander through all the riffs I have learned from those guys, but stay in the framework RJ made, if that makes sense. RJ wasn't big on doing solos on his records, but this day and age we need to stretch the tunes a bit more, and I always do a solo of some description because.....I like it!


But now I have the new RJ lessons from Tom at SGGW, I intend to go back and work on the exact notes and arrangements for a bit. I have hit 2 snags with the downloaded version already...I can't open the PDF files with the TAB on my iPad, integral to looking at the riffs from all angles and my home printer is out of black ink, can you believe it? So I have gone on to my other computer, downloaded the PDF, trans to a disc and will take them to the Office supply place that sells the black ink and also lets you print the PDF for a fee.....or wait til next week and the boss could print it all (3 files 77 pages, 43 pages, 57 pages). I like to have the books printed though, for later reference. I have lots of them from SGGW and Homespun Tapes.


Decisions, decisions!



I started playing along with the lessons - the guitar playing is real good, but the vocals are left out a lot. As expected - who can sing like RJ without having their important bits in a torture device?



Lots of fun though! I wonder why nobody took the in depth lessons on years ago, but I suppose no-one wanted to do them.




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Just an update....



Ha ha - I braved Officeworks with my file on USB thingy and printed the RJ lesson PDFs by their Self Serve Printing service. It was a couple of hundred pages, so it would take about a week to print on my little home printer, but it went Zap Zoop on their unit!


Just a bit of collating to do and then tomorrow we can get serious in our RJ study.


I also report that Tom F is playing a Gibson L-0 copy of some kind....think there is an 'F' on the headstock....do Franklin make L-0 style guitars?





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Well, we are working our way through the material...great.



I'm not sure of the level of the tunes though.



The words of the other famous Johnson - Lonnie explains it nicely....."To Do This You Got To Know How!" or "Woke Up With The Blues In My Fingers" or "Uncle Ned Don't Use Your Head"???? (sorry I just like those names).


Anyone else tackling this stuff or about to?








Edit: There is no shortage of stuff teaching RJ's guitar playing on the Internet, but not one single paragraph about his vocals/phrasing//////

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