cover image Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson

Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson

Annye C. Anderson, with Preston Lauterbach. Da Capo, $28 (224p) ISBN 978-0-306-84526-0

In conversation with journalist Lauterbach (Bluff City), Anderson offers vivid, personal glimpses of her stepbrother, legendary blues musician Robert Johnson (1911–1938), providing a colorful picture of the bluesman while attempting to debunk the myths surrounding him. In her earliest memory, an 18-year-old Johnson scoops up the three-year-old Anderson and carries her up the stairs to their new house in Memphis. She writes that her father taught the seven-year-old Johnson to play the guitar and recalls how much Johnson loved movies, especially Westerns, and that he wore a Stetson hat like his hero, actor Tom Mix. Anderson addresses the legend of Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads to become the world’s greatest blues guitarist, arguing that the mythical event could never have taken place because her brother was a devout Baptist. Anderson also relays sordid stories of how two musicologists—Steve LaVere and Mack McCormick—swindled Anderson and her family out of Johnson’s royalties, as well as family photos. She shares Johnson’s deathbed prophecy (“I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He Will call me from the Grave”), and believes it “came true,” since his reputation became bigger after his death. Anderson’s earnest and enlightening memoir will please Johnson’s listeners. (June)