Steven Johnson, Grandson Of Legendary Blues Artist Robert Johnson, Sets The Crossroads Straight!
When I reached out Robert Johnson’s grandson Steven Johnson and he agreed to do this interview I went back to where I first met his presence in my room, through my 48” television screen. Rewatching ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads (released April 26th 2019) about Robert Johnson on Netflix was extremely fascinating. I immediately took detailed notes. Google wasn’t enough for my research palette. I wanted to jot down words from the mouths of Robert Johnson’s kinfolk.
While many were surmising what they believed happened, the most powerful part was watching his grandsons put all of the myth and truths on the table to be sorted out.
Samantha Hollins: As I listened to you speak so fluently about your Grandfather I would like to know who was your griot that passed down these profound stories to you?
Steven Johnson: Stories about my grandfather, Robert Johnson, was passed on by my grandmother, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Honey boy Edwards ( both performed with my grandfather), Ike Zimmerman ‘s daughter ( Ike mentored my grandfather) and blues historian Bruce Comfort.
Samantha Hollins: What was your reaction when you learned that ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads wanted to do this project and interview you?
Steven Johnson: When Netflix contacted me about doing the documentary, Remastered, Devil at the Crossroads, I was honored and humbled to speak truth on the life and legacy of my grandfather.
Samantha Hollins: Can you tell me more about your dad and his rare visits with his legendary blues father?
Steven Johnson: Actually, my grandfather came to visit my dad twice. Both times he was stopped on the porch by my great grandfather because, being a Southern Baptist preacher, he didn’t want the so-called “Devil’s Music“ being a part of my dad’s life. Each time however, he gave my great grandfather money to give to my dad.
Samantha Hollins: If you don’t mind? How did your dad feel about not having his dad around because of the “Devil’s Music” stigma and how was your relationship with your dad because of it?
Steven Johnson: Dad was raised as a child by his grandparents. Therefore, he had no problem with their decisions. After, my dad was only 6 years old when his dad passed. My relationship with my dad was solidified by his relationship with his grandparents and, later on in his early adulthood; by his mom.
Mississippi Legislators Declare 2011 The Year Of Robert Johnson (including Steven Johnson and his dad Claude Johnson in attendance)
Samantha Hollins: How many grandchildren does Robert Johnson have? How many great-grandchildren?
Steven Johnson: Robert Johnson has 5 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren living today.
Samantha Hollins: Are any of the descendants of Robert Johnson artists or entertainers?
Steven Johnson: I am an artist basically focusing on my grandfather’s music as well as my own and music from the 70’s and 80’s.
Samantha Hollins: You were singing your grandfather’s song with the embodiment of his energy. I would like to know what your favorite Robert Johnson song is?
Steven Johnson: My favorite Robert Johnson song is “Sweet Home Chicago”.
Samantha Hollins: Why is “Sweet Home Chicago” your favorite Robert Johnson song?
Steven Johnson: “Sweet Home Chicago” is my favorite RJ song because it seems to be the Universal National Anthem of the Blues. People from all corners of the world in the music industry know this song.
Samantha Hollins: What is it like to have your wife as your road manager?
Steven Johnson with road manager/wife Misheila at A 1928 Blues Throwback Bash
Steven Johnson: It’s a blessing because she makes sure I have everything I need. She also watches out for my best interest.
Steven Johnson and road manager/wife Misheila at the 2019 Crossroad Festival in Dallas
Samantha Hollins: What is in the Mississippi air that breathed life into such a down home sound?
Steven Johnson: The Mississippi Soul felt Rhythm and Blues comes for deep within the soul . It is music like none other which paints pictures of life, both good and bad.
Samantha Hollins: From all that you know about your grandfather please tell the Culture Rock audience your take on the whole crossroads myth?
Steven Johnson: Being a preacher for over 30 years, I understand the crossroads myth to be just that: “a myth”. First of all, all souls, and I do mean ALL SOULS, belong to God. Yet he gives each soul choices. Our choices determine our destiny. You can’t sell anything you don’t own.
Samantha Hollins: Can you enlighten us about The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation and the role you play to preserve his legacy?
Steven Johnson: The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation is a 501C3 nonprofit organization established by the Robert Johnson Estate to preserve the life and legacy of my grandfather through the arts, art education, scholarships, youth music competition, mentoring and other community services. I currently service as president of the foundation.
Samantha Hollins: Listening to the stories passed down to you, do you think Robert Johnson would have still been a Blues man if he lived to be an elder?
Steven Johnson: I truly believe deep within that, had my grandfather lived to be an elder, he would have been continuously rooted in the Blues. Hopefully, he would have found his spiritual enlightenment and gospel would have been a part of who he was as well. (hint: like his grandson).
Samantha Hollins: Thank you so much for your time. This will not be the last time I feature your iconic grandfather Robert Johnson upon my Culture Rock Griot. It is extremely necessary to pay homage to the blueprint he laid down for Rock-n-Roll. I hereby induct the Legendary Blues innovator Robert Johnson in my first Culture Rock Hall Of Fame!
With this extraordinary privilege to learn more about Robert Johnson and the legend of the Crossroads, I see it more so as a metaphor. When life meets us face to face there is a sacrificial price to pay in order to understand and usher into, ones true power. What we are willing to give through consistency, hard work and determination is the reward we will receive through our ultimate gifts. Robert Johnson played hard purging his blues into a brilliant catalogue that is even more celebrated today.
Thank you ancestor Robert Johnson May 8th 1911-August 16th 1938
To learn more about how Steven Johnson is preserving his grandfather Robert Johnson’s legacy go here: