Recommended Book: Up Jumped The Devil – The Real Life Of Robert Johnson

We have added Up Jumped The Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, published in 2019, to our list of Recommended Books.

This is the best biography of Robert Johnson that we have read so far.

Up Jumped The Devil, The Real Life of Robert Johnson, by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, is one of our Recommended Books.
Up Jumped The Devil, The Real Life of Robert Johnson, by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, is one of our Recommended Books.

Available through:

Here is a link to our page on Little Zion M.B.E. Church, near Money, Mississippi, where we believe Robert Johnson is buried.

Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Robert Johnson, Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Money Road, Leflore County, Mississippi
Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Robert Johnson, Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Money Road, Leflore County, Mississippi

Robert Johnson’s Complete Recordings should be part of any blues fans’ collection. Here is the edition we have included in our Recommended Recordings.

CD cover, Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.
CD cover, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.

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A Good Article On Robert Johnson’s Grave Site – Atlas Obscura -23 October 2019

A good article on Robert Johnson’s reputed grave sites has been published  on the Atlas Obscura website.

The author, Matthew Taub, contacted MississippiBluesTravellers.com by email with a request for information about Robert Johnson’s grave sites. We put him onto T. DeWayne Moore of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund and Gayle Dean Wardlow, who found Robert Johnson’s death certificate in the Leflore County archives in the 1970’s.

Here is a link to the resulting article on the Atlas Obscura website. We think it came out well.

If you want to see the reputed Robert Johnson grave sites for yourself, here are links to more information:

Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Robert Johnson, Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Money Road, Leflore County, Mississippi
Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Robert Johnson, Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Money Road, Leflore County, Mississippi
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church cemetery and its reputed Robert Johnson grave, Morgan City, Leflore County, Mississippi
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church cemetery and its reputed Robert Johnson grave, Morgan City, Leflore County, Mississippi
Payne Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Quito, Leflore County, Mississippi, site of one of three reputed Robert Johnson graves,
Payne Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Quito, Leflore County, Mississippi, site of one of three reputed Robert Johnson graves,

Here is our current Recommended Recording of the Complete Robert Johnson:

CD cover, Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.
CD cover, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.

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The Daily Memphian Has Published A Music Tour Which Includes A Link To Our Page On Hooks Brothers Photography

The Daily Memphian has published an article entitled A Memphis Music Road Map: The Early Years which includes a link to our page on Hooks Brothers Photography Studio, 164 Beale Street, in downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

Our thanks to The Daily Memphian for its recognition of our page on Hooks Brothers Photography Studio and the fact that one of the two known photographs of Robert Johnson was taken there.

For our readers planning a trip to Memphis, here is a re-posting of our Page about Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street in downtown Memphis which was mentioned by The Daily Memphian:

web header image showing part of the Hooks Brothers Photography sign, beale Street, memphis

This Tennessee Historical Commission marker is located outside the King’s Palace Cafe at 162 Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was located at 164 Beale Street, which is the second floor of the King’s Palace Cafe building, in the space currently occupied by the Absinthe Pool Room.

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The front of this marker reads:

HOOKS BROTHERS PHOTOGRAPHY ESTABLISHED IN 1907 – Established by Henry Hooks, Sr. and his brother Robert B. Hooks, Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was the second oldest continuously operating black business in Memphis. Located during its early years at 164 Beale Street, it next moved to Linden Avenue and finally to McLemore Avenue where it ceased operation after a destructive fire in 1979.”

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (rear) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (rear) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The rear of this marker reads:

“Covering much of the 20th century, the company chronicled and documented the history and lives of black Memphis and Memphians. Among the subjects and luminaries captured on film by the Hooks Brothers were Booker T. Washington, W.C. Handy, Robert R. Church, the beginning days of the Memphis NAACP, the Lincoln League, early high school and college graduating classes from Howe Institute, LeMoyne College and many other activities of black society and ordinary people.”

Although it is not mentioned on this Tennessee Historical Commission marker, Hooks Brothers Photography was also where the only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken.

Kings Palace Cafe, 162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The second floor was once occupied by Hooks Brothers Photography. The only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken by Hooks Brothers Photography.
Kings Palace Cafe, 162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The second floor was once occupied by Hooks Brothers Photography. The only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken by Hooks Brothers Photography.

Hooks Brothers Photography and Robert Johnson

CD cover, Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.
CD cover, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.

The Hooks Brothers Photography studio at 164 Beale Street is also of interest to blues fans because of its connection to Robert Johnson.

There are only two known confirmed photographs of Robert Johnson.

One of the two confirmed photographs of Robert Johnson, the one used on the Robert Johnson Complete Recordings album cover (left), is a studio portrait taken circa 1934-1938 at the Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street.

The other is a snapshot of Robert Johnson that was used in making the cover of the Elijah Wald book Escaping The Delta, shown at left below.

 

 

Book cover, Escaping The Delta - Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald.
Book cover, Escaping The Delta – Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald.

Here are links to some articles about photographs of Robert Johnson:

 

The office and studio space used by the former Hooks Brothers Photography is now the Absinthe Pool Room, part of the King’s Palace Cafe located downstairs at 162 Beale Street.

Many of the original features of this space are still intact and it is possible to get some idea of what the Hooks Brothers’ offices and studio may have looked like in the mid-1930’s when the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken here circa 1934-1938.

Here are some photos of how the space now appears.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once the Hooks Brothers reception area.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once the Hooks Brothers reception area.

The photo above shows what the entrance area of the Absinthe Pool Room looks like today.

This is the second floor room you first enter after coming up the staircase from Beale Street. The Absinthe Pool Room uses this space as a bar and sitting area.

We’re speculating that Hooks Brothers Photography would have used it as a reception area and waiting room.

The main architectural features of interest today are the original wooden wainscoting, transoms above the doors and the interior windows that open in all the interior walls. The interior sliding windows are an interesting remnant of the days before air conditioning. Interior windows that opened allowed air to circulate more freely through the interior spaces, allowing more effective ventilation and circulation of interior air.

We’re speculating that Hooks Brothers Photography used the spaces shown in the photos below as offices.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.

The photos below show the current appearance of what we believe to have been a room used by Hooks Brothers as a photography studio. These rooms overlook Beale Street and have large south facing windows overlooking Beale Street which allow natural light to enter. These are the only rooms in the space with natural light, which leads us to believe Hooks Brothers Photography would have used them as studios. If so, this is where the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken.

These photos show the view looking toward the north, away from the Beale Street frontage of the building.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
This photo of Robert Johnson was taken at Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.
This photo of Robert Johnson was taken at Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

The photos below show another view of the same room shown in the photos above.

This view looks south toward the Beale Street frontage of the building. The large windows face south onto Beale Street and allow natural light into the interior space at the front of the building.

None of the other upstairs rooms have windows allowing natural light to come in. For that reason we think Hooks Brothers Photography would have taken advantage of the natural light and used these rooms overlooking Beale Street as their photographic studios. If so, the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson (shown at left) was taken in these rooms.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?

Hooks Brothers Photography – Where The Only Known Studio Portrait of Robert Johnson Was Taken

Tennessee Historical Commission Markers – Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee

This Tennessee Historical Commission marker is located outside the King’s Palace Cafe at 162 Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.The Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was located at 164 Beale Street, which is now the second floor of the King’s Palace Cafe building, in the space currently occupied by the Absinthe Pool Room.

Hooks Brothers Photography was established in 1907 at 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee and, over the years, took photographic portraits of many well known people in Memphis history, particularly people from the African-American community.

Circa 1934-1938, Hooks Brothers Photography also took the only known studio portrait of a then virtually unknown blues musician named Robert Johnson.

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The front of this marker reads:

“HOOKS BROTHERS PHOTOGRAPHY ESTABLISHED IN 1907 – Established by Henry Hooks, Sr. and his brother Robert B. Hooks, Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was the second oldest continuously operating black business in Memphis. Located during its early years at 164 Beale Street, it next moved to Linden Avenue and finally to McLemore Avenue where it ceased operation after a destructive fire in 1979.”  Continue reading Hooks Brothers Photography – Where The Only Known Studio Portrait of Robert Johnson Was Taken