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Robert Lockwood, Jr.

Guitarist and blues legend Robert Lockwood, Jr., a native of Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, was born on March 27, 1915. Lockwood, who held honorary doctorates from Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University, received his early education in Arkansas.

Lockwood’s first instrument was the pump organ, which he began to play as a young child; he later learned to play guitar from his stepfather, legendary blues artist Robert Johnson. Lockwood left school and began his professional career at age fifteen, traveling throughout the Mississippi Delta playing in juke joints and parties with Johnson, harpist Sonny Boy Williamson (a.k.a. Rice Miller), Johnny Shines, and others.

Lockwood made his first recordings in 1941 with Doc Clayton on his famous Bluebird Sessions in Aurora, Illinois. Among the four singles made were Take a Little Walk With Me and Little Boy Blue. Later that year, Lockwood returned to Helena, Arkansas, where he hosted a popular live radio broadcast on station KFFA, sponsored by the King Biscuit Company. Lockwood performed in all of the major blues centers, including Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri; by the early 1950s he was working as one of the top session artists for Chess Records in Chicago.

In the 1960s, Lockwood moved to Cleveland, Ohio, settling down in the Hough community, where he purchased a home and raised his family. Lockwood's solo recording career began in 1970 with the album Steady Rollin’ Man. In the 1980s, Lockwood and longtime friend Johnny Shines recorded three albums.

Lockwood won a number of awards, including the W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1980, and the National Heritage Fellowship Award in 1995. In 1989 Lockwood was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, and in 1998, he was inducted into the Delta Blues Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Lockwood and his wife Mary lived in Cleveland, Ohio; he passed away on November 21, 2006.

Accession Number

A2005.017

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/14/2005

Last Name

Lockwood

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Miller Junior High School

North End Elementary School

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Turkey Scratch

HM ID

LOC02

State

Arkansas

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/27/1915

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Death Date

11/21/2006

Short Description

Blues guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. (1915 - 2006 ) was a legendary blues guitarist who was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1989.

Employment

Telarc

Rounders Records

Lockwood Records

Favorite Color

Brown, Black, Gray, Blue

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243311">Tape: 1 Slating of Robert Lockwood, Jr.'s interview, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243312">Tape: 1 Slating of Robert Lockwood, Jr.'s interview, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243313">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his family background in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243314">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. recalls being taught to play the blues on his grandfather's pump organ</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243315">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his schooling in Arkansas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243316">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers starting to play guitar at thirteen</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243317">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers Robert Johnson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243318">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about the support he received in his early music career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243319">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers the uncle who raised him</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243320">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about the origins of blues music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243321">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers touring the South with Sonny Boy Williamson II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243322">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. shares his opinion about popular myths regarding blues music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243323">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about his economic circumstances during the Great Depression</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243324">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about an ear injury that precluded his military service</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243325">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about the sponsorship for blues radio shows</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243326">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. explains how music transcends racial discrimination, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243327">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. explains how music transcends racial discrimination, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243328">Tape: 1 Robert Lockwood, Jr. lists fellow blues musicians of the 1940s and 1950s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243329">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about record labels for blues music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243330">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers Elvis Presley's music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243331">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes characteristics of blues music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243332">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about Muddy Waters' music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243333">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his unique style of music composition</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243334">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. recalls working for Chess Records in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243335">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers his international musical tours during the 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243336">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about musical genres preceding and influencing the blues</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243337">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. lists his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243338">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his life in Cleveland, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243339">Tape: 2 Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers the Hough riots in Cleveland, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243340">Tape: 3 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about his recordings since 1970</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243341">Tape: 3 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about his label, Lockwood Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243342">Tape: 3 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about musicians' exploitation by record labels</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243343">Tape: 3 Robert Lockwood, Jr. lists his honors and awards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243344">Tape: 3 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about Robert Johnson and blues history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243345">Tape: 3 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his experience teaching blues music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243346">Tape: 3 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his current projects</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243347">Tape: 3 Robert Lockwood, Jr. plays a tune</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243348">Tape: 4 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243349">Tape: 4 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his concerns about the exploitation of African American musicians</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243350">Tape: 4 Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243351">Tape: 4 Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his ninetieth birthday plans</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243352">Tape: 4 Robert Lockwood, Jr. lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/243353">Tape: 4 Robert Lockwood, Jr. narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

6$8

DATitle
Robert Lockwood, Jr. recalls working for Chess Records in Chicago, Illinois
Robert Lockwood, Jr. plays a tune
Transcript
We have you in Chicago [Illinois] in the 1940s, and so I wanna talk a little bit about your work there. Did you have a good career? Were you a full-time musician in Chicago?$$Well, I--you know, we got a musicians' union [American Federation of Musicians]. Well, I was--I've been the musicians' union ever since 1939.$$Okay.$$And I played with almost everybody. I played with Muddy Waters. I played Roosevelt Sykes. I played with Eddie Boyd, I played with Willie Mabon, I played with Little Walter, and I played--I played with almost everybody Chess [Records] had. And they all was different. So I guess maybe that's the reason my thing is so wide, because I played with everybody.$$So are you primarily playing in Chicago as a studio musician?$$At that time, yeah. I was with Chess with about, about twelve, thirteen years.$$Okay, so is that full-time employment then?$$Yes, ma'am.$$Oh, all right.$$I was recording with somebody almost, I would say seven months out of the year, I was steady recording with somebody all the time.$$Okay, what are some of your most memorable experiences about the days with Chess, some of the work that you enjoyed most?$$Well, you know, you would be surprised. I think the Chess brothers [Leonard Chess and Phil Chess] wanted to be black, and they used a lot of profanity, like, "Good morning, mother--," and you know what that would mean. "Good morning, son." You know what that mean, behind "son," right?$$Uh-huh.$$And that's the way they lived, and that's the way they was all the time. They always was--if you listened, just listened to one of 'em, you'd swear they was black anyway.$$So, very comfortable then with blues culture?$$Oh, yeah, yeah.$$Okay. And obviously, the music repaid them very well (laughter) through their promotional activities.$$Chess had the biggest company ever been in Chicago.$$Okay, now, when do you decide that you no longer wanna be a studio musician, and perhaps you wanna be out front, have your own group, rather than being a part of someone else's? When do you make that decision?$$Well, I really didn't make that.$$No?$$What happened was, I just got--well, when Chess went out of business, what you gon' do?$$And when did that happen?$$When he died.$$In what year?$$I don't know. I can't think of what, what year [1969] it was. It ain't been--it's been a good while ago, 'cause right now the--his family can get that money.$$So was that before you came to Cleveland [Ohio]?$$He passed since I been in Cleveland.$$Okay.$$I been here forty-four years.$See, I got a lot of--I got quite a few records out that, my material don't sound like nobody else's, yeah.$$Who handles the distribution?$$Huh?$$Who handles the distribution of your records? Do you handle that here yourself?$$Yeah, we handle it.$$Okay, so the family works with you--$$Yeah.$$--in getting the music out?$$Yeah.$$Okay, well, I don't know that our, the viewers of the video will know, but that's actually a piano in the background, and I see guitar cases, several of them. How many guitars do you have?$$Ah, I got about, I don't know. I got about six, six or seven.$$Well, now, if you move, you won't be on camera anymore.$$I done give away two.$$Okay, and if I asked you to play something, would you?$$What you want me to play?$$Well, I want to hear you say, yes, first. And then I'll give you a song (laughter).$$And I might not know the song, 'cause--$$What if I asked you to play 'Betty Mae' [sic. 'Honeymoon Blues']?$$'Betty Mae'?$$Yeah.$$Is that the blues?$$Yes, the Robert Johnson tune.$$No, that ain't--$$"Betty Mae, Betty Mae," yeah, "you'll be my wife someday." I heard that.$$Oh, well, I ain't--I don't know that one.$$No, you don't know that one? Okay, well, I won't sing it. Let me see if I can think of (laughter)--$$I know 'Love in Vain' and--$$Yes.$$--and quite a few others.$$That's a good one. Would you sing that one, play that one for us?$$Yeah, I'll get the guitar--$$Okay, well, just one moment. Let's see how we have to do this.$$(OFF-CAMERA DISCUSSION)$$(Singing and playing guitar) I followed her to the station with a suitcase in my hand. I followed down to the station with a suitcase in her hand. You know I was so blue, and I was so lonely, was all my love in vain, with all my love in vain.$$When the train pulled into the station, I looked her in the eye. When the train pulled into the station, I looked her in the eye. You know I was so blue, and I was so lonely, I could not help but cry, was my love in vain?$$Hey, hey, whew, Miss Betty Mae, hey, hey, ooh, Miss Betty Mae, hey, hey, hey, whew, Miss Betty Mae, was all my love in vain? When the train left the station, with two lights on behind, when the train pulled away from the station, with two lights on behind, the blue light was my blues and the red one was my mind, all my love (guitar).$$I'd like to hear how that sound if you got a chance.$$(OFF CAMERA VOICE): Sure.$$I'm kind of hoarse.$$(OFF CAMERA VOICE): Nah, you sound fine--