The man known considered by many to be the premiere Delta Blues vocalist of the 1920’s and 30’s is finally receiving a grave marker at the site of his Mississippi burial.
Tommy Johnson was an impactful and influential Bluesman born in Mississippi in 1896. An intricate guitar player, he influenced many who came after him, including Bonnie Raitt, who purchased a grave marker for Tommy Johnson in 2001. Unfortunately that marker had to be displayed in the local library for over a decade. The cemetery containing Johnson’s grave is located in a tricky spot between to pieces of private property, and for the longest time, it was completely inaccessible. Copiah County, Mississippi officials were finally able to reconstruct the road and the grave marker Raitt purchased was put in place.
Ask most ordinary people to name a Blues legend with the surname Johnson, and you’re almost always going to hear Robert; but the truth is, Tommy Johnson was at the height of his fame when Robert was at his most impressionable, and Tommy was one of the stars who influenced Robert Johnson’s music. Tommy influenced other stars like Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Nighthawk, and is considered one of the most important pre-war Bluesmen alongside contemporaries like Charley Patton. Songs like “Canned Heat Blues” and “Cool Drink of Water Blues” were influential to multiple generations of artists. Tommy Johnson died in 1956, but his legacy lives on today through a foundation and festival that both bear his name – and, of course, in the music that he recorded.
You can find out more online at TommyJohnsonBlues.com and take advantage of the videos below to listen to a pair of Tommy’s songs.
Canned Heat Blues
Cool Drink of Water Blues