Robert Johnson - King Of The Delta Blues Singers (Used)
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**Used - Sleeve/NM Media/VG+ - 1981 Japanese pressing, no obi**
King of the Delta Blues Singers was the first and the most important compilation of Robert Johnson’s work, and one of the most influential blues record to be released. The producer of the album, John Hammond, had originally tried to contact Johnson to perform at his 1938 concert From Spirituals to Swing, a series of concerts which tried to highlight the history of spiritual music to Swing. Johnson would never get to perform there, as he died four months prior having been poisoned by a jealous lover. By 1961 Johnson was only thought to be a rumor, and few people outside of record collector circles knew about him. Three of Johnson’s songs had been issued only two times prior to King: 1959’s The Country Blues, a collection by Samuel Charters, and 1960’s The Rural Blues, which only contained fragments of two of his songs. By the start of the 1960’s the American Folk Revival was in full swing, and compilations and albums of old blues and folk singers were in demand. Columbia, wanting to make profit, released the album to capitalized on the movement.
The album contained 16 of the known 42 songs Johnson recorded, of which 9 were previous released singles, 4 alternate takes and 3 unissued songs. In fact, many of the original 12 singles wouldn’t be issued until much later. Because of the limited information on the album, the linear notes of the album contained many inaccuracies about Johnson and stoked the now infamous tale of Johnson’s devilish deal. There weren’t any photos of Johnson (the two verified photos wouldn’t surface until the 1980’s), so instead they picked a generic drawing of a generic blues singer to grace the cover.
The album sold poorly and failed to chart, but the album cemented Johnson’s growing legacy and would prove to be massively influential to many generations of musicians in both the US and UK. Bob Dylan, who by then had just signed to Columbia, received a copy of the record from Hammond and was so mesmerized by the music that he included the album on the cover of his fifth album Bringing It All Back Home among a stack of other records. A popular anecdote is that when Keith Richards heard a copy, he thought that he was listening to two guitarists instead of one. One of the biggest fans of Johnson’s music came from Eric Clapton, who would cover Johnson’s songs “Ramblin' On My Mind” and “Crossroad Blues” with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Cream, and later a whole album dedicated to covers of Johnson’s work. These artist would build off of Johnson’s blueprint and create some of the most essential songs of the 60’s and 70’s. Demand for Johnson’s work rose to such an unprecedented level that a 2nd Volume would be released 9 years later.
Johnson’s music bridged a gap between the rural and roughness of the Delta Blues with the cool and complexity of Chicago style Blues. With King Johnson became one of the most influential musician alongside the likes of Mozart, and became the poster child of Blues music. The album was reissued in 1998 replacing many of the alternative takes with the single versions. In 2003 Rolling Stone Magazine named the album #27 in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.