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Robert Johnson's real sound

Have we been playing his recordings too fast?

 

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An Internet myth busted

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You can't get more iconic when it comes to the blues than Robert Johnson.

We only know his music from his recordings.

What if we've been playing them at the wrong speed?

That means the song should be in the key of A, not the key of B or Bb.

What do you think?

UPDATE

From Bruce Conforth, the world's leading expert on Robert Johnson's life:

Johnson's recording "might" be off by 1 or 2 rpms but they are NOT at the wrong speed.

1) Lawrence Cohn, who produced the Grammy winning 1991 "Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings" and the subsequent Sony technicians used, among other things, electronic hum on Johnson's original recordings to make sure they were played at the correct speed.

2) Why would Don Law and Vince Liebler, producer and engineer for Johnson's sessions change his speed but not the speed of the other artists who recorded at those same sessions? It's an absurd proposition.

3) Everyone who knew Johnson - Henry Townsend, Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood, Honeyboy Edwards, Calvin Frazier, Willie Mae Powell, Elizabeth Moore, and many, many more all said that his recordings are how he sounded live. What are the chances that they were all wrong and that some audiophile who decided, without any other evidence, that they're at the wrong speed, is right?

Come on... this truly ridiculous idea needs to be put to rest once and for all.

The way we hear Johnson on his recordings is the way he actually sounded.




Bruce and I had a long and highly enlightening talk about this and other aspects of Robert Johnson's life.

You can listen to it here. Fascinating. If you're a blues fan, don't miss it.



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