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Church Plans To Renovate Building Where Robert Johnson Recorded His Influential Music

In June, the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas bought 508 Park Avenue, the downtown building where, in 1937, Robert Johnson recorded almost half of the 29 songs that make up his entire discography. The church plans to renovate the building.

In the 1930s, Johnson — who would have turned 100 this year — was an unknown vagabond musician who primarily worked the Delta blues circuits in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, his home state. It was his dream to cut a record, and in late 1936 a music producer took him to the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where, in a small room, he recorded “Cross Road Blues, “Sweet Home Chicago” and 14 other songs.

Seven months later, Johnson was called back to Texas, this time to Dallas. He worked with Don Law, a producer at Brunswick Records, and recorded the final 13 songs of his career, including “Me and the Devil Blues,” “Love in Vain” (which the Rolling Stones covered) and “Traveling Riverside Blues” (covered by Led Zeppelin).

First Presbyterian plans to start renovating the 23,000-square-foot building next year, creating a cultural center complete with a museum, a performance space, an art studio and a music education center called “The Spirit of the Blues.” A recording studio will be built in the same area where Johnson and others cut records — including Bob Wills, the Western swing musician — and the vacant building next door will be torn down and replaced by a band shell-style outdoor amphitheater.

Read more at The New York Times.