Robert Lockwood, Jr.

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Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Background information
Birth name Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Also known as "Robert Junior" Lockwood
Born (1915-03-27)March 27, 1915
Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, United States
Died November 21, 2006(2006-11-21) (aged 91)
Genres Delta blues
Electric blues
Chicago blues
Country blues
Instruments Guitar, organ
Years active 1930s–2006
Associated acts Robert Johnson, B. B. King

Robert Lockwood, Jr., also known as Robert Junior Lockwood, (March 27, 1915 – November 21, 2006)[1] was an American Delta blues guitarist,[2] who recorded for Chess Records among other Chicago labels in the 1950s and 1960s. The only direct student of Robert Johnson, he is well known as a longtime collaborator with Sonny Boy Williamson II and for his work in the mid-1950s with Little Walter.


Early life[edit]

Robert Lockwood was born in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, a hamlet west of Helena, Arkansas. He started playing the organ in his father's church at the age of 8. The famous bluesman Robert Johnson lived with Lockwood's mother for 10 years off and on after his parents' divorce. Lockwood learned from Johnson not only how to play guitar, but timing and stage presence as well. Because of his personal and professional association with the music of Robert Johnson, he became known as "Robert Junior" Lockwood, a nickname by which he was known among fellow musicians for the rest of his life, although he later frequently professed his dislike for this appellation.

Early career[edit]

By age 15, Lockwood was playing professionally at parties in the Helena area. He often played with his quasi-stepfather figure Robert Johnson as well as with Sonny Boy Williamson II and Johnny Shines. Lockwood played at fish fries, juke joints, and street corners throughout the Mississippi Delta in the 1930s. On one occasion Robert Johnson played on one side of the Sunflower River, while Lockwood played on the other, with the people of Clarksdale, Mississippi milling about the bridge, supposedly unable to tell which guitarist was the real Robert Johnson.

Around 1937/38 Lockwood worked with Sonny Boy (II) and Elmore James in the Delta at places like Winona, Greenwood, and Greenville (where they most probably met Robert Johnson, who died in 1938). Lockwood played with Sonny Boy Williamson II in the Clarksdale, Mississippi area in 1938 and 1939. He also played with Howlin' Wolf and others in Memphis, Tennessee around 1938. From 1939 to 1940 he split his time playing in St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, Illinois and Helena.[3]

On July 1, 1941, Lockwood made his first recordings with Doctor Clayton for the Bluebird label in Aurora, Illinois and on July 30 he recorded the four songs which were released as the first two 78s under his own name: "Little Boy Blue" / "Take A Little Walk With Me" (Bluebird B-8820) and "I'm Gonna Train My Baby" / "Black Spider Blues" (Bluebird B-8877). These songs remained in his repertoire throughout his career.

Also in 1941, Lockwood and Williamson began their influential performances on the daily King Biscuit Time radio program on KFFA in Helena. For several years in the early 1940s the pair played together in and around Helena and continued to be associated with King Biscuit Time. From about 1944 to 1949 Lockwood played in West Memphis, Arkansas, St. Louis, Chicago and Memphis.[3] Lockwood was an early influence on B. B. King and played with King's band during his early career in Memphis.

In 1950, Lockwood settled in Chicago. A 1951 78 featured "I'm Gonna Dig Myself A Hole" / "Dust My Broom" (Mercury 8260) and a 1954 release contained "Aw Aw (Baby)" / "Sweet Woman (From Maine)" (J.O.B 1107.) In 1954 he replaced Louis Myers as guitarist in Little Walter's band, and played on Walter's #1 hit "My Babe" in 1955. He left Little Walter's band around 1957, and in the late '50s recorded several sessions with Sonny Boy Williamson for Chess Records, sessions which also included Willie Dixon and Otis Spann. Lockwood also performed and/or recorded with Sunnyland Slim, Eddie Boyd, Roosevelt Sykes, J.B. Lenoir, and Muddy Waters among others.

Later career[edit]

In 1960, Lockwood moved with Sonny Boy to Cleveland, Ohio where he resided for the second half of his life. In the early 1960s, as "Bob Lockwood, Jr., and Combo," he had a regular gig at Loving's Grill, located at 8426 Hough Avenue. From the 1970s through the 2000s, he performed regularly with his band the "All Stars" at numerous local venues, including Pirate's Cove, The Euclid Tavern, Peabody's, Wilbert's and for the last years of his career at Cleveland's Fat Fish Blue (corner of Prospect and Ontario in downtown) every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. where he played his regular three sets two days before the illness which led to his passing. The "All Stars" continued the Wednesday residency for two years after his death.

His studio albums as a band leader include: Steady Rollin' Man (rec. 1970-Delmark) with The Aces; Contrasts (rec.1973-Trix); ...Does 12 (rec. 1975-Trix); Hangin' On (rec. 1979-Rounder) with Johnny Shines; Mister Blues Is Back To Stay (rec. 1980-Rounder) with Johnny Shines; What's The Score (rec. 1990-Lockwood) and I Got To Find Me A Woman (rec. 1996-Verve). A 1972 45 included "Selfish Ways" / "Down Home Cookin'" (Big Star BB 020).

Solo guitar and vocal albums include: Plays Robert and Robert (rec. 1982-Evidence); Delta Crossroads (rec. 2000-Telarc) and The Legend Live (rec. 2003-M.C.). A duet session with pianist Otis Spann in 1960 resulted in Otis Spann Is the Blues and Walking the Blues on Candid.

At the age of sixty, in 1975, he discovered the 12-string guitar and preferentially played it almost exclusively for the latter third of his life. His most famous 12-string was a blue-colored one custom designed and made by the Japanese luthiers Moony Omote and Age Sumi. This instrument was acquired by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in February 2013 and is displayed there.

A live recording with David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Joseph "Pinetop" Perkins and Henry "Mule" Townsend in Dallas in October 2004—Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas—was awarded a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. For Townsend and Lockwood it was their first Grammy win. Earlier in 2004 in Dallas he appeared at Eric Clapton's first Crossroads Guitar Festival.[4] His last known recording session was carried out at Ante Up Audio[5] studio in Cleveland; where he performed on the album The Way Things Go, with longtime collaborator Mark "Cleveland Fats" Hahn for Honeybee Entertainment.

Lockwood died at the age of 91 in Cleveland, having earlier suffered a cerebral aneurysm and a stroke. He is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Cleveland.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dahl, Bill. "Allmusic biography". Retrieved 2012-04-20. 
  2. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2000). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  3. ^ a b Harris, Sheldon (1979). Blues Who's Who. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306801556. 
  4. ^ Bernstein, Adam (November 23, 2006). "Washington Post obituary". Retrieved 2012-04-20. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived December 7, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones, Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-025-6

Further reading[edit]

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