Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow

Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson

Published by Chicago Review Press

Jul 16, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Robert Johnson is at the center of one of the most famous stories in music, that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads for a masterful ability to play the guitar. Supposedly, he left town a novice player and came back the best bluesman alive. Of course, the story is a myth, but it’s one that has been propagated for years, in no small part because of the lack of information available on Johnson’s life to refute it. Johnson’s full story was never known, until now.

A culmination of over 50 years of research from blues historians Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, Up Jumped the Devil is as definitive a Robert Johnson history as will likely ever be written. And it is a riveting read. In Conforth and Wardlow’s account, Johnson comes alive. The backbone of the book is an impressive and comprehensive base of study with an incredibly extensive bibliography of interviews, articles, books, census records, and scouring of city directories, maps of the era, marriage licenses, and death certificates. No stone is left unturned.

The book traces Johnson’s upbringing, his marriage and the loss of his wife and child, and the circumstances of his untimely death at age 27. Conforth and Wardlow outline Johnson’s travels across the South, Midwest, and East playing the blues in juke joints. They detail each of the recording sessions that make up his slim but essential body of work. The text is peppered with photographs that move the story along and bring life to its words. Ultimately, the origin of the myth that is central to Johnson’s story is also discussed. And Johnson’s internal struggles are presented as best can be supported by fact and testimony from those who knew him at the time.

Up Jumped the Devil once and for all puts to rest the apocryphal in the tale of one of the best bluesmen in history. It’s been a long time coming but it was certainly worth the wait. (www.chicagoreviewpress.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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July 16th 2019

Great story and already watch it enjoy the story