Robert Lockwood Jr., the Delta blues guitarist and singer who was taught by Robert Johnson, died of respiratory failure on Nov. 21 in Cleveland. Lockwood, who had suffered a stroke earlier in the month, was 91.
Lockwood was born in Turkey Scratch, Ark., where his mother became romantically involved with Johnson when Lockwood was 11 years old. As a teen, Lockwood learned Johnson’s guitar and vocal style, even though he would stray from that sound until late in his career.
In 1938, the year Johnson was murdered, Lockwood became one of the first blues musicians to use an electric guitar. He worked on the “King Biscuit Time” with Sonny Boy Williamson in Helena, Ark., in the 1940s and after settling in Chicago in 1950, he became a well-regarded sideman. Besides backing Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd, Lockwood cut his own singles for Mercury and JOB Records.
For years he billed himself as Robert Jr. Lockwood and was able to eke out a living touring and occasionally recording throughout the 1970s. In 1982 he made an album of his own songs and tunes by Johnson called “Plays Robert & Robert”; in 2000, he recorded “Delta Crossroads” for Telarc and worked in an acoustic Delta blues format for the rest of his life.
Lockwood gave his last major performance last month at the 21st annual Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival in Helena.