His job had also exposed him to the painstaking, detail-oriented detective work that often goes into identifying and authenticating vintage guitars. Even when the make, model, and serial number of an instrument are apparent, pinpointing its age and value sometimes requires scrutinizing the idiosyncrasies of its construction. Schein enjoyed this aspect of the business, and when he had nothing better to do, he would sometimes log on to eBay to test his knowledge against the sellers who were advertising vintage guitars on the Web site.
Jimmy Webb And The Great Americana Songbook
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These are just some of the descriptions offered by musicians and writers that have been awed by the music of Robert Johnson. Even the facts of his life are confusing. Julia was probably around forty years old when Robert was born illegitimately; his father was a plantation worker called Noah Johnson. Charles Dodds had moved to Memphis as a result of problems he was having with some prominent Hazelhurst landowners. Robert Johnson grew up in Memphis and learned the basics of the guitar from a brother.
This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in , went unreported in The Times. Little about the life Robert Leroy Johnson lived in his brief 27 years, from approximately May until he died mysteriously in , was documented. A birth certificate, if he had one, has never been found. What is known can be summarized on a postcard: He is thought to have been born out of wedlock in May in Mississippi and raised there. School and census records indicated he lived for stretches in Tennessee and Arkansas. He took up guitar at a young age and became a traveling musician, eventually glimpsing the bustle of New York City. But he died in Mississippi, with just over two dozen little-noticed recorded songs to his name. Decades after his death, he became one of the most famous guitarists who had ever lived, hailed as a lost prophet who, the dubious story goes, sold his soul to the devil and epitomized Mississippi Delta blues in the bargain.