"A damned lot of good selling my soul to the devil did. Here I am dead, and I didn’t even get to keep the geetar. Damned shame, that is. I should have got mo’ out of it. That’s how that should have been."
I had listened to hours of stories and tales of good music, whiskey good and bad, and the women in his acquaintance. Spoken to me by a spirit, I’d say, but just as surely in my presence, as real as anyone else. "Well here, Mister Johnson," I said, "Why don’t you take this here guitar? Yeah, right here. That’s a grand idea!"
Robert Johnson looked at me. He seemed to soften just a bit. I couldn’t tell from looking at him, I could just feel it. Scoffing, he looked at me and said “Son, mighty kind, and I wish I could. Ya see, since I’ve been dead I can’t even touch a guitar. Can’t even hold one, it just slips right through my fingers.” He put his hands back into his pockets after he had given them a good look.
He looked at the ground, probably searching for a rock to kick. He kicked a rock, but I don’t think it did any good for the kicker.
“Mr. Johnson,” I said. "Ol’ Scratch hisself walked right down this same road a long while back and he stopped right here when he saw me. He looked tired, probably from carrying this guitar case. It looked heavy. Ol’ Scratch looked at me and he said, “I’m tired. This is heavy. I been carrying around this guitar ever since that old fellow from Mississippi got hisself killed. Seems he might have some ill will thinking maybe the short end of the bargain fell on him. I don’t see it like that,” he told me, “But I ain’t seen nobody since that could play it. I’m more of a fiddle player, you may have heard."
"Right now, I’m tired of carrying this old geetar and case around, and I ought to just leave it here with you. Yeah, if you see Robert Leroy Tommy Johnson come by, you make sure he gets this here geetar.”
Well, up jumped the devil and with nothing more to say and nothing more to carry, took off down the road with a frolic. He didn’t seem so tired anymore and had suddenly found enough energy to jump and click his heels! There’s something ya don’t see every day.
“Anyhow, Mr. Johnson,” I said, “I tried to play that old guitar and I couldn’t even touch it. Couldn’t even hold the thing, it just slips right through my fingers.” I put my hands back into my pockets after I had given them a good look. I searched the ground and found a rock to kick.
Now I’ll swear that the case with that guitar in it had to weigh at least 50 lbs. and I’d bet on more. Mr. Johnson reached for the handle and lifted it like was made of thin air. Opening the case, he reached slowly for the instrument, but only about half way, then looked toward the horizon. Well, since he didn’t see the devil, it might be alright. The palms of his hands came together, and with the longest of fingers, rubbed together in anticipation.
That geetar, free from the confines of the case, seemed to breathe as it lay in Robert Johnson’s hands. And then it sang as Robert Leroy Tommy Johnson played the Delta Blues, again.
Ol' Scratch owns his Soul;
Delta Blues Robert Johnson
Hell hounds on his tail.