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.
Ralph Lembo was a store owner and music promoter during the 1920’s and 1930’s in Leflore County, Mississippi who obtained recording contracts for musicians like Bukka White and Rube Lacey.
Ralph Lembo’s store in Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi is still standing at 114 Humphreys Street in downtown Itta Bena.
Ralph Lembo’s historical reputation has been tarnished through articles by blues historians, including Gayle Dean Wardlow and Ed Komara, who wrote that musicians considered Ralph Lembo untrustworthy. Gayle Dean Wardlow has written that Charley Patton refused to work with Ralph Lembo because he considered Lembo untrustworthy.
New research by T. DeWayne Moore of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund suggests that Ralph Lembo’s posthumous reputation has been tarnished unfairly and the criticism of Ralph Lembo as being untrustworthy is itself untrustworthy.
Prior research by Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow has suggested that Ralph Lembo exploited blues artists and musicians like Charlie Patton refused to deal with Ralph Lembo because they didn’t trust him.
Blues historian T. DeWayne Moore has published a very interesting new article which shows that Ralph Lembo was definitely not the untrustworthy figure early research has portrayed him as being.
“This essay examines newspaper articles, government documents, personal family collections, and secondary sources to refute and corroborate interviews about Ralph Lembo and restore the good name of the Mississippi talent scout and manager whose passionate, multi-faceted engagement with the entertainment world brought many artists to major recording companies, including Columbia, Paramount, OKeh, and Victor. Lembo drove Rocket 88 air-conditioned automobiles, wore alligator boots and Panama-brimmed hats, and he stepped up and offered his large plantation when several other potential sites had refused to support the establishment of Mississippi Valley State University. Lembo relished playing the drums in his band the Pot Lickers and operating several music stores in the mid-Delta, which brought him into contact with an immense well of talent, including such figures as Kansas City Jim Jackson, Bo Carter, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Rubin Lacy. This article also explodes the negative and ongoing bias against Lembo and argues that he discovered the “King of the Delta Blues,” Charley Patton.”