Willie Brown

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Willie Brown
(1890-1900(?) - December 30, 1952)

Despite the popular movie "Crossroads" with Ralph Machio, Willie Brown is not a harmonica player that traveled and played with Robert Johnson. Instead, it is most likely the opposite: that Robert learned a little from Willie.

Willie Brown is an accomplished guitarist from the Delta. Best known for his fierce string picking style (it is often said he plucked the strings so hard, he tore quite a few strings right off the guitar), he played along side Charley Patton the most.

He was born in 1890-95 probably around Robinsonville, in the upper Delta. By the time he hit his teens, he was living near drew, and was learning guitar from Patton. It is often said that before long, Willie became a better musician and guitarist than Charley Patton ever was. He never really made a name for himself as a creator and singer of the blues, though, and the few solo recordings he did make sound like him imitating Patton. Willie was far more content being an indispensable sideman than going it alone, so he often remained in the background with Patton and other musicians.

Robert Johnson began following Willie Brown from job to job picking up pointers in as early as 1926. Although by this time Robert Johnson was listening to phonographs, his main influences at this time were Patton and Brown (this was in the Robinsonville area). Patton and Brown reamined Johnsonís main influences until 1930, when Son House moved to the area. (P.S. Ė Son House also learned from Patton, ans would buy and listen to his recordings.)

So Willie Brown was, in some way, an influence to Robert Johnson, and not a sideman for the him. Willie Brown also influenced Tommy Johnson, a bluesman who first came up with the story of selling his soul to the devil, a story most believe Robert Johnson adopted from Tommy. Thus the reason Willie is mentioned in the Crossroads song. Some even believe Willie was one of Robertís closest friends, and an ex-employer of Johnson said Willie was the person listed to be contacted in the event of Johnsonís death.

According to recent census records discovered by The Delta Blues Blog, Willie Brown is buried in an unmarked grave, in a run down church lot, Good Shepard Church, Prichard, Mississippi.

Notable songs by Willie Dixon
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Notable notables on Willie Brown
There is an effort to erect a gravestone for the influential bluesman Willie Brown, which has been approved by Tunica County, Mississippi. Any donation amount helps, and 100% of the proceeds are being used solely for the purchase and placement of Willie's headstone. All donations can be made here: at the Delta Blues Blog