at STLBlues were honored when we were contacted by Roberts
wife - and manager - asking us to add Robert to our site,
as he had a strong St. Louis connection. He and St. Louis
Blues Patriarch Henry Townsend
remain good friends to this day!
Please welcome Robert Lockwood
Jr., one of the last surviving roots bluesman of the twentieth
Robert Lockwood Jr. was born March 27, 1915 in Turkey
Scratch, Arkansas, a farming hamlet about 25 miles west
1915 was remarkable because several other monumental
blues artists were born within a 100-mile radius that
year; notably Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Little Walter
Jacobs, Memphis Slim, Johnny Shines, and Honeyboy Edwards.
They would all meet up in the future.
first musical lessons were on the family pump organ.
He learned the guitar, at age eleven, from Robert Johnson,
the mysterious delta bluesman, who was living with his
mother. From Johnson, Lockwood learned chords, timing,
and stage presence. By the age of fifteen, Robert was
playing professionally, often with Johnson; sometimes
with Johnny Shines or Rice Miller, who would soon be
calling himself Sonny Boy Williamson II. They would
play fish fries, juke joints, and street corners. Once
Johnson played one side of the Sunflower River, while
Lockwood manned the other bank. The people of Clarksville,
Mississippi were milling around the bridge; they couldn't
tell which guitarist was Robert Johnson. Young Lockwood
had learned Johnson's techniques very well.
fast lifestyle caught up with him, passing away in 1937.
Lockwood was 22 but prepared for the future.
first recordings came in 1941, with Doc Clayton, on
his famous Bluebird Sessions in Aurora, Illinois. During
these sessions, he cut four singles under his own name.
These were the first incarnations of 'Take A Little
Walk with Me', and 'Little Boy Blue', Lockwood staples
sixty years later.
in 1941, Lockwood was back in Arkansas where he re-united
with Sonny Boy II to host a live radio program broadcast
at noon from KFFA in Helena, sponsored by the King Biscuit
Flower Company. James 'Peck' Curtis and Dudlow Taylor
provided the rhythm. This show became a cultural phenomenon;
everybody would listen during his or her lunch hour.
Several generations of southern bluesman can trace their
musical roots to the show.
moved around, the usual route was Memphis, St. Louis,
to Chicago. By the early 1950's, he had surfaced in
the Windy City, where he became the top session man
for Chess Records, the epitome of blues labels. Sonny
Boy Williamson II, Little Walter, Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland
Slim, and Eddie Boyd, whom he toured with for six years,
you can hear his smooth chords on their recordings.
was giving way to Rock and Roll, even in Chicago, so
Lockwood moved to Cleveland, Ohio at the urging of his
old pal, Sonny Boy. Settling down and raising a family
took priorities but blues was still in his soul, just
on the back burner.
the late 1960s Lockwood would gig all around Cleveland,
playing whenever he got the chance. Long-forgotten clubs
like Pirates Cove and Brothers Lounge were places where
Lockwood taught his blues to generations of local musicians
solo recording career, exclusive of the 1941 Bluebird
Sessions, began in 1970 with Delmark's Steady Rollin?
Man, backed by old friends Louis Myers, his brother
Dave Myers, and Fred Below, collectively known as The
Aces. In 1972, Lockwood hooked up with famed musicologist,
Pete Lowry to record Contracts, the first of two for
Trix Records. Does 12 followed in 1975. They have been
remastered and repackaged by Fuel 2000 Records.
the early 1980s Lockwood teamed up with another long-time
friend, Johnny Shines, to record three albums for Rounder,
which has been comprised into 1999's Just the Blues.
Plays Robert and Robert, a Black and Blue recording
of a solo show in Paris in 1982, was re-issued on Evidence
the early 1980s to 1996, there were no domestic Lockwood
releases. In 1998, I've Got to Find Myself a Woman was
released by Verve, gaining a Grammy nomination. This
was followed by Telarc's Delta Crossroads, also a Grammy
contender in 2000. In 2001, What's the Score was re-issued
on Lockwood Records which has the rights to his Japanese
live recordings, previously only available on Peavine.
They will be a future project.
the last twenty years, the Blues world has recognized
Lockwood's contributions to the genre. Recently, Lockwood
has amassed so many that it is not possible to list
all of them. The most notable are:
Lockwood receives the very first W.C. Handy Award for
'best traditional blues album'
1989 Inducted into the
Blues Hall of Fame
1995 Received National
Heritage Fellowship Award, presented by Hilary Clinton
1996 Cleveland Mayor, Michael
White, proclaims February 3, as 'Robert Lockwood Day'
1997 Has street named 'Robert
Lockwood, Jr. Way' in Cleveland's Flat District
1998 Inducted into Delta
Blues Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Mississippi
2001 Received Honorary
Doctorate in Humane Letters from Case Western Reserve
2001 Received W.C. Handy
for best traditional blues album,' Delta Crossroads
2001 City of Pittsburgh
named 8/18 'Robert Lockwood, Jr. Day'
2002 Received honorary
Degree of "Doctor of Music" from Cleveland
State University on 5/12
content to rest on his laurels, Lockwood is touring
more than ever at age 86. Lockwood leads an eight-piece
band every Wednesday at Fat Fish Blue in Cleveland,
roams the world playing his jazz-tinted Delta Blues,
and records once a year. Lockwood is in better mental
and physical shape than many men years younger. His
guitar playing is as crisp as ever. Like a fine French
cognac, he is only getting better with age; no dust,
rust or must here.