There had been only two confirmed photos of Robert Johnson, that great blues player, who recorded in the 1930s and died in his 20s.
Now a third has surfaced and been restored (see above). In the photo, Johnson poses with a guitar next to friend and fellow bluesman Johnny Shines.
These are the two pictures that most people know:
In 1994, the US Postal Service used the photo booth image as the basis for a stamp (minus the cigarette).
I got into the "Robert Johnson revival" right around the time The Complete Recordings were released on CD in 1990. I had been listening to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, so it was only a matter of time before I was digging Robert Johnson, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Blind Willie McTell, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Strangely enough (or maybe not), it was on a trip through Memphis, crossing the great Mississippi and adjacent lands that listening to the blues suddenly made sense to me... (in its proper context)....
Of course it was always a kick to know that the British rockers who came of age in the early 60s all grew up listening to Robert Johnson and trying to emulate Johnson, other American bluesmen, and early rockers like Chuck Berry... Robert Johnson's King of The Delta Blues Singers came out on vinyl LP in 1961 and had the grooves immediately worn out by the likes of The Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, The Animals... Keith Richards famously said, as many listeners have remarked since, that he thought that there were two guitarists on the Robert Johnson recordings, due to Johnson's ability to strum rhythm on the guitar apparently at the same time he was picking out leads. (This phenomena may have contributed to the legend that Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at the Crossroads in exchange for becoming the greatest blues guitarist of all time.) The Stones did a cover of Johnson's "Love in Vain" (which they bizarrely credited to "Jagger/Richards", even though Johnson's 1936 recording of the song was well known, at least in the circles of blues aficionados that The Stones emerged from).
75 years after his death, Robert Johnson continues to haunt, disturb, and thrill.
I dare you to listen to "Me and The Devil, were walking side by side..." and not get goosebumps....
UPDATE: Just found out this photo was found for sale 8 years ago on eBay, but the seller did not know the identity of the two men in the photograph. Now the photo has been restored, authenticated, and released.
Article from The Guardian:
Robert Johnson: rare new photograph of delta blues king authenticated after eight years
Article from PopPhoto.com: