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"Dust My Broom" (Happy 100th, Robert Johnson)


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I've just finished writing and posting an in-depth account of how Robert Johnson and Elmore James transformed several early 1930s singles into a rip-roaring blues standard and rite-of-passage for slide guitarists. I've tried to detail all of the predecessors, beginning with Pinetop and Lindberg (aka the Sparks Brothers) in 1932, Jack Kelly and His South Memphis Jug Band in August 1933, Carl Rafferty in December 1933, Josh White in 1934, Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell in 1935, Kokomo Arnold's "Sagefield Woman Blues" and "Sissy Man Blues," and Big Bill Broonzy's 1938 "I Believe I'll Go Back Home."


There are a lot of details about Robert Johnson's slideless "I Believe I'll Just My Broom," including insights on how he got his sound. Then come the early postwar versions by Arthur Crudup and Robert Lockwood, Jr.


I've gone most in-depth with the Elmore James versions for Trumpet Records in 1951 and Fire/Fury/Enjoy in November 1959. Ry Cooder contributed some intriguing insights to this section, and Homesick James provided me with a lot of interesting info about the 1959 session and how they'd frame parts onstage. (In terms of gear, Homesick reveals, two of the secrets to Elmore's sound were his amp, a Gibson GA-53, and his unusual choice of slide: "He used a tube cover. Elmore used a light piece of metal, and Elmore had some big fingers too. He’d take one of those slips – protector tubes – from an old amplifier and put it on his finger. If he got a smaller one, then he would split it open – take a hacksaw and saw it open. That’s what we played with all the time. I don’t think no man should use them big old heavy slides. You can’t. The sound ain’t there. Like you go to a store and buy them – whew, that’s too much weight on your hand.”)


After that, I cover the Rolling Stones connection and the many covers done by British and American musicians in the 1960s, on up to the modern era.


Anyway, if you love the blues and "Dust My Broom," I invite you to check it out: Jas Obrecht Music Archive: Dust My Broom: The Story of a Song

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Very interesting to see how songs evolve. Outside Women Blues is a good example. Going from Joe Reynolds version with a slide to Creams version. The A.R.S. cover is my favorite. I also love Zeps In My Time Of Dying taken from Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed. I think Dylan did a cover of it, though I've never heard it.

As far as Elmore James, I had read where he was an radio repair man and had done some modifications to his amps, though it could just be a rumor. Dust My Broom is a great song but it's not one my favorite James songs. I would have to list One Way Out or Elmores Contribution to Jazz as my favorites.

Great article Jas.

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