Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson (Hardcover)

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Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson Cover Image
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This intimate memoir by blues legend Robert Johnson's stepsister includes new details about his family, music, influences, tragic death, and musical afterlife.

Though only twenty-seven years young and relatively unknown at the time of his tragic death in 1938, Robert Johnson's enduring recordings have solidified his status as a progenitor of the Delta Blues style. And yet, while his music has retained the steadfast devotion of modern listeners, much remains unknown about the man who penned and played these timeless tunes. Few people alive today actually remember what Johnson was really like, and those who do have largely upheld their silence -- until now.

In Brother Robert, nonagenarian Annye Anderson sheds new light on a real-life figure largely obscured by his own legend: her kind and incredibly talented stepbrother, Robert Johnson. This book chronicles Johnson's unconventional path to stardom -- from the harrowing story behind his illegitimate birth, to his first strum of the guitar on Anderson's father's knee, to the genre-defining recordings that would one day secure his legacy.

Along the way, Anderson not only shares personal anecdotes, but also colorful recollections of Johnson passed down by members of their family -- the people who knew him best. She also outlines the contours of Johnson's working life in Memphis, never-before-disclosed details about his romantic history, and all of his favorite things, from foods and entertainers to brands of tobacco and pomade. Together, these stories don't just bring the mythologized Johnson back down to earth; they preserve both his memory and his integrity.

For decades, Anderson and her family have ignored the tall tales of Johnson "selling his soul to the devil" and the speculative to fictionalized accounts of his life that passed for biography. Brother Robert is here to set the record straight. Featuring a foreword by Elijah Wald and a Q&A with Anderson, Lauterbach, Wald, and Peter Guralnick, this book paints a vivid portrait of an elusive figure who forever changed the musical landscape as we know it.

About the Author

Annye C. Anderson is a retired educator and administrator of the Boston Public Schools in Massachusetts.

Preston Lauterbach is the author of Bluff City, Beale Street Dynasty, and The Chitlin Circuit. He lives near Charlottesville, VA.

Praise For…

Publishers Weekly, "Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2020"

"Anderson offers vivid, personal glimpses of her stepbrother ... providing a colorful picture .... [An] earnest and enlightening memoir."—Publishers Weekly

"An illuminating portrait of an artist lost in the mists of history and

Anderson's lush, vivid memories from Robert Johnson's home base give the
bluesman a personal dimension like never before. How he walked, the pomade in
his hair, his protection of his guitar. The aura of mystery remains, but with Brother
, Johnson gains character and context, and becomes more of a person
than we've ever known this specter to be."—Robert Gordon, author of Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters and It Came From Memphis

"Cutting through the mythos that has long surrounded this iconic artist,
this is an intriguing addition to the history of 20th-century blues."—Library Journal

"Although it's been more than 80 years since Anderson last saw Johnson,
her memories are vivid and personal, as she recalls a well-loved older sibling
who entertained his family and community with his guitar and vast repertoire of
songs. [...] Anderson's account debunks myths about Johnson: he had a loving
family; he was exposed to all kinds of popular music; he was not illiterate;
and he did not go to the crossroads and sell his soul to the devil. Consider
Anderson's heartfelt chronicle an earnest attempt to set the record straight."—Booklist

Product Details
ISBN: 9780306845260
ISBN-10: 0306845261
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication Date: June 9th, 2020
Pages: 224