NPR Features 75th Anniversary Of Robert Johnson’s Recordings
75 years ago, Robert Johnson walked into the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. He had been brought there by Ernie Oertle, an executive with the American Record Company, which had refashioned a hotel room into a makeshift studio. The company had brought people from all over the country to record, and the range of artists in the hotel that day was startling. Blues musician and writer Scott Ainslie lists them: “Gospel musicians, polka bands, string bands.”
“Johnson’s session was sandwiched between a hillbilly band and a group of sisters who played Spanish guitar music,” Ainslie says. Johnson walked into the recording room and settled down, facing into a corner. He tuned up his guitar and began to play.
Billy Gibbons, the guitarist for ZZ Top, is a big fan of the recordings Johnson made that day. He says he’s particularly impressed by the way Johnson’s hands struck the strings of his guitar.
“This was just one guy, ” he says. “Meat on metal on wood. But what he came with was fierce.”
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