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Robert Johnson’s celebrity was wholly posthumous, the result of the 29 records that he cut in 1936 and 1937. An itinerant regional blues singer and guitarist born in Mississippi in 1911, he performed mainly in small towns in the Mississippi Delta, and his death at age 27 prevented him from attaining wider renown. Very little is known of his life, and it was not until 1961 that Columbia released “King of the Delta Blues Singers,” an LP containing 16 of his 78 rpm sides that found its way into the hands of Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Their enthusiastic response (Mr. Clapton called Johnson “the greatest blues singer who ever lived”) secured his well-deserved fame at long last.
Enter Steve H. Broadnax III, a prominent regional stage director who made the big leap to New York with impressive productions of “The Hot Wing King” and “Thoughts of a Colored Man.” It turns out that Mr. Broadnax is also a playwright, and he has now collaborated with Charles Dumas on “Me and the Devil,” a one-man musical bioplay about Johnson whose premiere production, directed by Mr. Broadnax, was taped in June by Philadelphia’s Lantern Theater Company for later streaming. It is first-class in every way….
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Robert Johnson performs “Me and the Devil Blues”: