Seventy years after his death, Robert Johnson (l, circa 1935) is still considered "King of the Delta Blues." By others, Robert Johnson is considered to be the "Grand-father of "Rock-and-Roll." Younger and younger audiences are discovering the artistic merits of Johnson's blues lyrics and guitar.
Although Robert Johnson lived a short time, May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938, his vocal style, original songs and guitar style have influenced a wide range of musicians. They include Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, the Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, Warren Zevron, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eric Clapton.
It is still amazing that with all of the national and international accolades received by Robert Johnson, few people know that the son of Robert Johnson, Claud Johnson (pictured right), and his family reside in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. With quiet resolve, this resilient family is making a substantial difference in their community. While their lack of notoriety is about to change because of a soon to be released film by HBO, the commitment of the Johnson family to making a difference will not.
Four years ago, the family of Robert Johnson established The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 organization located in Crystal Springs, MS. The Foundation is dedicated to preserving the music and memory of Robert Johnson through the provision of art education, competitions and scholarships. Via art immersion programs, the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation has developed programs for high school drop-outs, cultural awareness programs focusing on self-esteem and positive self-expression and inter-generational support programs.
The Foundation has also launched an entrepreneurship program. The Entrepreneur Class is an engaging teacher facilitated program designed to improve students' academic skills, business and life skills. Through participation in this program attendees gain an understanding of the free enterprise system, improve the quality of their lives and learn to dream about the possibilities. The Entrepreneur Class also fosters collaboration, teamwork, patience, positive risk taking and sound planning skills. It offers youth the opportunity to dream and grow. Each graduate of the program receives a $500 scholarship upon completion. The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation also keeps the dream alive through its other awards programs, the New Generation Award, the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, and The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation Scholarship Award given yearly to college bound high school graduates.
The aggressive programs of the Foundation are maintained through fundraising efforts. "Blues Jam" is the largest fundraiser for The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation. The proceeds of this two day event are utilized to maintain the outreach capabilities of the Foundation. "Blues Jam 2008" represents the 4th year that the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation has hosted its blues celebration. This year the festival will be held in Jackson and Crystal Springs. At 6 P.M. on May 9th, the TelCom Center in Jackson, MS will be the center for glitz and glamour. The event, the 4th Annual Robert Johnson Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame Awards Banquet (Reception/Banquet-$50/person; Banquet only-$35/person). Inductees include Grammy Award Winner David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Ike Zinnerman.
"Honeyboy" Edwards was born June 28, 1915 in Shaw, Mississippi. He is the last living Blues artist to play with Robert Johnson. Mr. Edwards received a 2008 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album, "Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas!"
There are many stories as to what happened to Robert Johnson from 1930 – 1931. Some say he sold his soul to the devil while others believe that he went to Hazlehurst to look for his father. Most however, agree that the second honoree, Ike Zinnerman had a profound affect on helping Robert Johnson hone his skills on the guitar. Mr. Zinnerman's award will be presented posthumously. This great bluesman shared his knowledge of the guitar with Robert Johnson from 1930 – 1931.
On May 10th, the JAM continues in Crystal Springs, MS at Chautauqua Park beginning at 11:00 A.M. Local and national artist will take center stage . . . The Muddy Water Reunion Band, the Howling Wolf Reunion Band, T. K. Soul, Jessie Robinson, Malina Moye and many, many more.
"Blues Jam 2008" is sponsored by the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jackson, MS, Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Department of Tourism, Skinner Chevrolet, The Meteor, Copiah County Bank, SEASAC, Gibson Pure, Gibson Foundation, Copiah County Courier, and Piggly Wiggly. To purchase tickets for "Blues Jam 2008" call 866/402/5837 or, go to www.robertjohnsonbluesfoundation.org. Don't miss the JAM!