Friday, November 11, 2011

Delta Blues Odyssey . . . Robert Johnson, Part 2

Recalling the epics of old, modern-day argonauts Screamin' Killer Davis, Jailhouse Gumbo, and Big Mama Merkin cut a swath through the Mississippi Delta seeking out the mythological sites of the Gods. With hellhounds on their trail, they traversed the land from Nitta Yuma to Itta Bena, from Panther Burns to Tutwiler. They bridged the mighty Mississippi, Yazoo, and Tallahatchie rivers. They went to the crossroads, and they went to "where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog." Lo, they ate sweet manna from heaven (deep fried tamales). However, the greatest of these endeavors was a pilgrimage to all three of Robert Johnson's gravesites.

The least likely to be the actual burial site of Robert Johnson is this one at Payne Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Quito, MS. Apparently, the Atlanta-based band The Tombstones placed the marker at this site using unsubstantiated evidence . . . I assume this was a publicity stunt that had something to do with their name. At any rate, here we are.

A memorial obelisk at the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, near Sheppardtown, donated by Columbia Records and the Mount Zion Memorial Fund contributes to the befuddlement of the actual gravesite location. Confusion pertaining to this site apparently arose because of the common place names of Three Forks Store and Mount Zion Church.

According to the Mount Zion Memorial Fund website, "At the request of church members, the song titles, several of which mention the devil, were positioned facing away from the church entrance."

The consensus now marks the cemetery at the Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, just north of Greenwood, as Robert Johnson's final resting place . . . sort of. An eyewitness to the burial places the site near the base of an old pecan tree. So, Robert Johnson is probably somewhere nearby, but maybe not exactly where the monument was placed.

However, a good argument that they did indeed place the monument well is our photo of the ghost of Robert Johnson alighting atop the gravestone shortly after it had turned dark.
You may bury my body
Down by the highway side
(Spoken:) Baby, I don't care where you bury my body when I'm dead and gone
You may bury my body, woooo
Down by the highway side
So my old evil spirit
Can get a Greyhound bus and ride

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