Robert Johnson is musically the great grand daddy of blues and rock & roll in that he influenced all the influential bluesmen who went on to influence everybody else. And that's why this monument to him at Mt. Zion Church near Morgan City in LeFlore County is appropriate.
Mt. Zion Church for years was the best candidate for the actual burial place for the man who struggled as a musician in the steamy Mississippi Delta, not all that successfully at first. Then he disappeared for a few years. And when he came back, he was untouchable. Son House said he had sold his soul to the devil. Actually what happened was he went back home to Copiah County and worked hard and practiced hard for awhile.
The story of his being poisoned by a jealous husband is pretty much legend, too. Then he was buried. His death certificate says he was buried at Zion Church outside of Greenwood. And for years, that was thought to have been Mt. Zion Church south of Itta Bena. Way outside of Greenwood.
Just up the road, at Quito in a Johnson family plot at Payne's Chapel, there's a grave marker there for the famous bluesman. But there is no doubt he is not buried here. So, where in fact is the man buried, who said in his "Me and the Devil Blues", you may bury my body down by the highway side. I don't care where you bury my body when I'm dead and gone.
Well, Robert Johnson himself may not have cared but in recent years lots of blues fans and music historians have cared. They settle on Mt. Zion to set up a monument for the musical pioneer, unsure if this was the Zion Church. Well in the latter part of 2000, an 84-year-old lady in Greenwood, Rosie Eskridge, says she knows for sure where Robert Johnson is buried. Here in an unmarked plot at Little Zion Church near Greenwood. She says her husband dug the grave. And she would have been glad to have told where Robert Johnson was buried years ago but had no idea people had lost him. Down by the highway side after all. Just not the highway we thought it was.
Copyright 2011 WLBT. All rights reserved.