The Sheraton Gunter Hotel has been fortunate enough to play host to hundreds of celebrities throughout the 104 years we have been in operation, but one celebrity has left a lasting impression.
Although an extravagant legend surrounds the talent of this man, Robert Johnson came from simpler beginnings. Born in 1911 in a small town in Mississippi, Johnson lived a rather common life for an African-American at that time. He began his musical career as an itinerant (traveling) musician, yet his rise to musical fame came several years after his passing.
Robert’s amazing musical talents have spawned several legends regarding how he was able to play so well. The most famous of which states he “sold his soul to the Devil” one night on a plantation in Mississippi. His most widely known song, “Crossroads Blues“, is said to refer to the meeting.
Robert Johnson recorded 29 songs between 1936 and 1937, many his most popular songs recorded at the hotel. In 1936, H.C. Speir, a talent scout, put Johnson in touch with Ernie Oertle. Oertle offered to record Johnson at the hotel on November 23, 1936 in room 414 where a temporary studio had been set up. For three days, Robert Johnson recorded 16 songs along with alternate versions of each.
Songs like “Crossroad Blues”, “Come on In My Kitchen“, and “Kind Hearted Woman Blues” were recorded during this 3-day session. Johnson’s fame came several years after his untimely death. He passed on August 16, 1938, at the age of 27. The cause of death has yet to be determined, the origin of yet another Robert Johnson legend.
Now known as “The King of the Delta Blues Singers”, Johnson’s music has influenced the likes of major acts of our time. Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan are just a few names who have all been touched by Johnson’s gift. Clapton has even been quoted saying that Johnson is “the most important blues singer of all time”.
Although room 414 no longer exists in its original state, the Sheraton Gunter honors Robert’s stay with us on a daily basis. A plaque and memorabilia line the walls of our lobby for visitors and fans to learn more about this mysterious, yet magical artist.