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I like to fuss and fight... and get sloppy drunk offa bottle in bond, and walk the streets all night - Charlie Patton, Elder Greene Blues

Author Topic: Johnson & Shines photo "authenticated!"  (Read 37270 times)

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Offline Spatz

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #60 on: October 09, 2008, 09:23:08 AM »
 There was mention made of this new photograph in another blues related guitar forum some time ago during the anticipation of it's release. At the time, there was a comment that suggested the photograph was actually published in a local Arkansas newspaper, and the photographer worked for or was associated with the newspaper.
Efforts have not been succesful trying to retreive a  copy of the newspaper from the time period.
Supposedly Johnny Shines confirmed this story, about RJ and himself in the photo, however we read that he did not recognize this photograph, so this all might be nothing more than speculation.

If it's BB King, he couldn't have beeen more than 13 at the time. I don't see any resemblance to Johnny Shines.

Offline Dave in Tejas

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #61 on: October 21, 2008, 06:26:11 AM »
I just finished the article in VF about the photo. Zeke Schein (the discoverer, or owner) is certainly a "geek" in this situation, he's a guitar guy like a lot of us.

I think the man in the dark suit has very many resemblences with the guy in the earlier photos. If the earlier two pictures are Robert Johnson, than this guy could be also. I'm going by his left eye, and the long fingers, as well as the general resemblence.

It is important because it gives blues lovers something more to talk about.

Offline jpeters609

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #62 on: October 21, 2008, 07:54:42 AM »
I think the commentary on this photo has pretty much burned itself out. I followed the initial rumors with some interest, but the published result is a little underwhelming...and I find myself caring less and less. For what it's worth, aside from the ?long, spidery? fingers, I see very little in this photo to make me believe it?s Robert Johnson. (And certainly the claim that the second man is Johnny Shines does nothing to bolster the story.)

A couple things make me suspicious of the photo right away: 1) It was sold on Ebay, which isn't a bad thing in its own right. But Ebay and other auction sites have had their share of unfounded Robert Johnson ?relics? in recent years. 2) It came from Atlanta, with no known connection to Johnson or anyone who knew Johnson. If it had come from Mississippi or Arkansas, I might have been a little more curious. Indeed, the seller made no claim that there was a Robert Johnson provenance, and I am unaware of any connection the photo has had to a Johnson friend or relative. 3) Johnson's few remaining contemporaries, when asked, failed to identify either man.

I am also curious about why Johnson would have posed with what seems to be a studio prop guitar. Would he have needed to? And looking again at the guitar and those "long, spidery" fingers raises another question: in every photo of any old bluesman that I can think of (from Patton to Robert Petway to Joe McCoy to Peetie Wheetstraw to Clifford Gibson to Charlie Jordan to, yes, even Robert Johnson in his two known photos), the guitarist is clearly and purposefully fingering a chord. In this photo, the guy, whoever it is, is just sort of holding the neck of the guitar. This is a small, inconclusive detail, to be sure, but it?s another one that stacks up against this really being Johnson.

It is interesting to speculate. And I'll admit I am seduced by the appearance of a new photo of any old bluesman. But this one is a little hard to accept. I think if I had spent a couple thousand dollars on a photo, I would want to believe it was Robert Johnson, too. Ultimately, I am left with only the long fingers as the best evidence. And I'm pretty sure there have been many long-fingered men, of all races and ethnicity. Some of whom have played guitar, and some who haven't.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2008, 07:41:06 AM by jpeters609 »
Jeff

kramerblues

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #63 on: October 22, 2008, 05:57:56 AM »
"...the guitarist is clearly and purposefully fingering a chord. In this photo, the guy, whoever it is, is just sort of holding the neck of the guitar."

It's hard to tell from the small, low res. on-line VF pic, but if you look closely, his middle and ring fingers appear to be bandaged, which would explain not being able to bend them to form a chord. (looks like bright lighting in areas, but the thickness of the first joint is exaggerated).
Zeke showed me copies of this pic a few years ago in NYC and it was more apparent and striking examining it up close.
Just speculation (all most of this is!) but he could have been in a brawl and had his guitar smashed... Seems in character.

Just to introduce myself; Brian Kramer (from B'klyn, now residing in Sweden...).
Working musician in the blues & roots field (and all the gray areas in between).
www.briankramerblues.com (if curious)

I dont do this forum stuff too often, and am rusty on the etiquette. Not to appear rude...
I think this is an amazing find and subject, whether it's RJ or not, the photo raises much more questions than it is being given credit for.
It is being written off way too quickly from most by what is being simply viewed on the surface.




Offline doctorpep

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #64 on: October 22, 2008, 06:31:07 AM »
Good point, Brian. There is a lot we can learn from this photo about late 1930s or early 1940s styles of clothing amongst then-young black males. The photo certainly provokes a lot of questions. I think that most of us are just generally dissatisfied with the Robert Johnson hype. He was a great singer and guitar player, but perhaps, as Elijah Wald MIGHT say, he should be chiefly remembered as a songwriter and an amalgam of a lot of artists who came before him. A week or so ago, someone posted an article in this thread about how Bob Dylan looked to Johnson chiefly for lyrical and songwriting inspiration, and almost ignored his guitar playing, which many young people say sounds like "10 people playing at once!". I should probably only speak for myself, but I think that, at one time or another, we all thought that Robert Johnson was the king of the Delta Blues singers (whatever that means), because of the hype that surrounds him. However, many of us are very serious Country Blues fans, collectors and even musicians, so we may be over that stage in our lives. I still love Johnson's music, but I just wish that mainstream media would devote a little time and energy to talking about that guy Johnson always traveled with. What's his name? Oh, Johnny Shines!

I hope I didn't come across as speaking for everybody, because I certainly have no right to do so. At any rate, welcome aboard, Brian!
« Last Edit: October 22, 2008, 06:32:41 AM by doctorpep »
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

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Offline Rivers

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #65 on: October 28, 2008, 06:34:40 PM »
Look at the eyebrows on the guy on the right. Very, very similar to the other B.B. pics recently posted, particularly the general line and asymmetry. Mouth too. I'll go with B.B. King.

The guy on the left's tie stripes are clearly too narrow, what were you guys thinking? The hands are right though, freakishly long digits.

Offline jed

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #66 on: October 30, 2008, 01:07:00 AM »
(sigh) The fact that this kind of topic still sparks fascination in our ever-more-grayer matter continues to baffle me.  Then again, so do many things.  Anyway, I only took a month or so to get all the way through the VF article (Thank you, Mr. Chez) - which, believe me, is quite an feat for one who stopped reading shortly after eleventh grade.  I have to echo Rivers' tie theory - it's clearly pre-Columbian.  If I were ever to get serious about such a thing (and who's to say that it mightn't happen), I'd take that bottle away from the forensic physiopanegyrist and give it to Mr. Zeke:  In those three RJ-touted pix are at least three noses - and only one of them belongs to the one known as RJ-no-hu.  But hey, who's counting?

I dunno who the guy is on the right; maybe cropped-in Dr. Joel Foy - which reminds me, Rivers - he recently acquired your internet address from me at email-point!

Cheers,
Jed
ok then:  http://jed.net

Offline Richard

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #67 on: October 30, 2008, 10:21:04 AM »
Maybe Bunkerhill still has that other rare pic of RJ I sent him as card last Xmas. Bunker ???
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline CF

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #68 on: February 20, 2009, 07:44:46 AM »
Sorry to bring this crap up again but I recently listened to an interview with Zeke Schein (the guy who purchased the photo & the subject of the Vanity Fair article) on the otherwise great Down Home Radio show
(found here: http://www.downhomeradioshow.com/2008/10/interview-with-zeke-schein-a-new-photo-of-robert-johnson-comes-to-light/)
& got sucked back into this debate . . . mostly because my blood was boiling as I listened to this cat declare that his immediate gut feeling was that the picture had to be of the most famous country blues singer in the world of course!
Here's an article by the VF writer Frank Digiacomo providing forensic analysis examples of the work done by Lois Gibson, seemingly to answer the online debate about the legitimacy of the photo

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/culture/2008/10/27/a-disputed-robert-johnson-photo-gets-the-csi-treatment.html

I know, who cares anymore, but it just really bothers me that this kind of novice analysis & historical detective work is garnering so much attention. We'll probably have to wait another 5-10 years to read a published article about the many errors & inconsistancies used to authenticate this photo & the embarrassing fact that it's own make-believe steam got it all the way to the pages of Vanity Fair. Thankfully, I see that the comments sections to all this stuff is full of folks who doubt its authenticity as well.
I'm open to being wrong here, by the way. I would love for this to be a photo of Johnson, why not? But hearing this interview & reading the article I realize that this is really a story about Zeke Schein & how he really likes R Johnson & not about all of our desire to give this music it's rightful share of spotlight & understanding.   
« Last Edit: February 20, 2009, 10:17:59 AM by cheapfeet »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Richard

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #69 on: February 20, 2009, 01:01:02 PM »

Yawn. Oh sorry are we back on this again....

Quote
Sorry to bring this crap up again

CF, you can't say that, you'll have the RJ fanatics taking out fawahs against you!

That said I have to admit found the analysis itself quite interesting and wonder what it cost? I expect BH could confirm that he also used a 13 gauge on the top string, a 16.2 on the second and wore pink BVDs?

Sorry, I'm ramblin' (on my mind) it must be the Prozac (again)  zzzzzzzzzz
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #70 on: February 20, 2009, 01:47:01 PM »
The main part of the problem is Robert Johnson is the only name that exists to the media. Vanity Fair isn't going to do a story about a guy obsessed with Lonnie Johnson, or Bo Carter or finding another photo of Blind Lemon or Peg Leg Howell.

Anyway CF, think of it as TMZ or whatever for the blues crowd. All Robert Johnson all the time.

I stopped listening to him for years. Now every 2 or 3 weeks or so, one of his songs pops up in iTunes and I can enjoy him again. He ain't bad.  >:D

Offline CF

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #71 on: February 23, 2009, 05:30:16 AM »
Quote
I stopped listening to him for years. Now every 2 or 3 weeks or so, one of his songs pops up in iTunes and I can enjoy him again. He ain't bad.  >:D


I hear ya UB. One of the better aspects of all this hoopla is that I have been hearing R Johnson stuff again after having taken a long break from him. Despite the many caveats us hardcores use when appraising his talent, he was really amazing. I may have to reevaluate his stuff soon. If I had heard Patton in high school & not RJ, I don't think I would have been able to compute it. As crooked as RJ's playing seemed in those days, well I hadn't heard anything yet!
So, Robert Johnson was brilliant, this photo is bogus . . . I can shut up now.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline doctorpep

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #72 on: February 23, 2009, 10:01:30 PM »
Photo is definitely absurd, if for no other reason than that man is obviously not Johnny Shines. I'd like some more pictures of J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith or ANY picture of Richard "Rabbit" Brown. I had to put R.J. away for a while, too, Cheapfeet, and have recently come back to him. Elijah Wald does a good job of analyzing which R.J. songs deserve the praise they get and which ones are overrated.
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

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Porge

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #73 on: July 01, 2009, 06:20:00 PM »
Hi all,

I'm sorry to parachute in on this one - as a high-school convert to Johnson some 24 years ago, I can't help but find this stuff compelling. I'd also quickly add that whatever your take on RJ, he represents an incredible entree in to the world of country blues

Sorry to revivify this probably now long dead discussion (and do it as a first post), but there is one aspect that makes analysis of this further problematic: it being B.B King.

Whilst my initial reaction to (just) having see the photo was "wow... a young B.B King", beyond the theory that the image is somehow photoshopped (something I think VF might have investigated thoroughly before opening this can of worms) - the fingers are never going to be B.B's. Just as a man's hairline doesn't magically drop as he ages, neither does he go from having seriously long digits to what B.B. himself refers to as "short, stubby fingers". Compare to the early photos displayed earlier in the post.


I am also curious about why Johnson would have posed with what seems to be a studio prop guitar. Would he have needed to? And looking again at the guitar and those "long, spidery" fingers raises another question: in every photo of any old bluesman that I can think of (from Patton to Robert Petway to Joe McCoy to Peetie Wheetstraw to Clifford Gibson to Charlie Jordan to, yes, even Robert Johnson in his two known photos), the guitarist is clearly and purposefully fingering a chord. In this photo, the guy, whoever it is, is just sort of holding the neck of the guitar. This is a small, inconclusive detail, to be sure, but it?s another one that stacks up against this really being Johnson.

I completely agree with jpeters609 on this - and I'd add that the prop guitar in question seems odd. In the Hook Bros. photo, Johnson use of the Gibson is telling. If I remember rightly, there is conjecture that this wasn't even Johnson's guitar, with RJ choosing the potentially more desirable Gibson over whatever he might have been using - most likely a kalamazoo, and probably an archtop. My point is this: the guitar in the photo doesn't fit with what I'd see as common practice in photos of musicians. Unless it IS RJ, and he also got an inside knowledge of the future power of ironic instrument imagery as part of his faustian pact O0 . The other thing on this is the condition of the guitar. I'd agree with the idea of it being ~1935. Does it look like a maximum of 3 years wear on it? Just a thought, an observation, but not an argument.

I'm not trying to argue this is Johnson - I might just be him - but I think that B.B is out of the frame. Maybe its the guy from the debunked film?? (which I was lucky to see in person in 1998 - serendipity never ceases to astound me).

Has there been any development on the picture front? We "know" that McCormack might have the fabled 3rd picture - but do we know what LaVere might have? I can't see LaVere - who had intended to publish a biography himself - not withholding some "Ace" information.

Offline RobBob

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Re: New 3rd picture of Robert Johnson ?
« Reply #74 on: July 07, 2009, 02:22:43 PM »
I got hip to RJ when Down Beat offered an LP of his music, sans photo, because no one had one back then.  The hoopla about this photo is about as valid as all the craziness about one M Jackson who never sang the blues but has rapid fans NTL. 

I am still mourning the loss of Willie King.

 


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