The Devil is in the Deal Tale.


You may have heard the story of the bluesman, the Devil, and the deal at the crossroads.

One night some time in the early 1930s, at the stroke of midnight, aspiring bluesman Robert Johnson walked down to the windswept crossroads at the junction of Highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Reciting an ancient incantation, he called upon the Devil to make his deal. In exchange for Johnson’s immortal soul, the devil tuned his guitar, thereby giving him the abilities which he so desired. From then on, the young bluesman played his instrument with an unearthly style, his fingers dancing over the strings. His voice moaned and wailed, expressing the deepest sorrows of a condemned sinner.

Johnson died at the young age of twenty-seven, and left a legacy of Delta Blues music that has influenced guitar players like Muddy Waters, and his songs have been covered by several rock stars, including Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. In 1986 Robert Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His songs include “Crossroad Blues,” “Me and the Devil Blues” and “Terraplane Blues.”

Julie and I are big fans of blues music. In 2005, not long after I formed the first line-up of The Graham Mack Blues Band, we drove through the Mississippi Delta. We rented a car and for a week we drove from Memphis Tennessee, south along old highway 61 through the blues heartland, all the way to New Orleans Louisiana. We stayed at roadside ‘Bates’ motels along the way and met some amazing people.

When we got to “The Crossroads” which is now marked by two huge guitars on a pole, we stopped to take some pictures. When we got back into the car, a tall black man in overalls tapped on the window. Julie said, “Drive off!” but something about this bloke told me he was OK. I wound down the window, the man said, “Are you here for the blues?” When I said, “Yes”, he handed me a homemade CD and told me his name was “Razorblade”.

He told me to play the CD on the car stereo, which I did and as it played he leaned in through the window and told us his life story, which involved being down on his luck and “woman trouble”. The music was really good and when he asked me for $10 to buy the CD I gave him twenty and told him ten was for the music and the other ten was for the story.

For some reason I was thinking about our crossroads story this morning. As a complete long shot, I typed “Razor Blade, blues” into Youtube. I couldn’t believe it, I found a video of him that some other blues travelers had shot AT THE CROSSROADS!

He was selling his CDs out of the back of his car. He also talks about playing at Ground Zero which is a blues club we visited in Clarksdale. It’s owned by the actor Morgan Freeman who comes from the town. Razorblade also talks about Morgan in this video.

I also found a video of Razorblade playing live at Ground zero. The sound is bad but you can see what showman he is.

I know that not everybody appreciates the blues like we do but then not everyone has made a deal at the crossroads.

Craic on!

Listen to the latest Mack Nuggets at;

If you enjoyed this Craic, please click “like” and tweet a link. If you’d like to talk to me about it, call me on +44 1438 422106 between 6 and 9 weekday mornings (UK time) on BOB fm.

%d bloggers like this: