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Doctor Robert Lockwood, Jr

In Memory of "The Legend"

Dallas, Texas - The world has lost “The Legend” and America a national treasure. Robert Lockwood, Jr., known by many as Robert Jr., or just Robert was a great among greats. As one of the original King Biscuit boys, he appeared regularly with Sonny Boy Williamson II in the early days of KFFA’s King Biscuit Time radio show, forging a 70-year friendship with the show’s host “Sunshine” Sonny Payne who continues to host the longest running radio show in American history.

Lockwood was fostered as a musician at an early age under the tutelage of the legendary Robert Johnson and became the carrier of his legacy. How many times have you heard Sweet Home Chicago? Well, the next time you hear it think of Johnson teaching an adolescent Robert Lockwood, Jr. his first song. Lockwood said it took him three weeks to learn. He was a quick study though. “I had learned his style so well, when we went on the road, he would stand on one side of the river, and I’d be on the other, and the people couldn’t tell us apart. Johnson said we would make more money that way. Double what we would make if we played together and he was right”, Lockwood said. Little did he know that one day he would become the teacher, the esteemed “Dr. Lockwood, Professor of the Blues”.

Dr. Lockwood’s respect and admiration for Johnson was significant, deep-rooted and personal. If you hung around him for any period of time, it wouldn’t be long before he began to talk about Johnson like a personal hero. When asked what made Johnson’s playing style so unique, he simply explained, “he backed himself up, like there were two people playing at the same time; he was thirty years ahead of his time!” Listening to Dr. Lockwood gives us a peek into the past and this same “back-up” style that he no doubt gleaned from Johnson.

As Dr. Lockwood’s career evolved, he became one of the most sought after and revered guitarists in the business. Unlike Johnson whose playing style was kept a mystery, Dr. Lockwood became the esteemed professor for a select group of emerging understudies such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Jimmy Rogers, Matt “Guitar” Murphy and others. He was the guitar player’s guitar player. Now put this into the context of the impact he had on Rock-N-Roll and think of all the rock and rollers that refer to this list of Robert’s protégé’s as influences. Artists such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Walsh, all Rock-Roll Hall of Fame inductees were either directly or indirectly influenced by Dr. Lockwood. Of course, it doesn’t stop with these artists.

He explained that Johnson only showed him something once and you’d better learn it. In the case of B.B., Dr. Lockwood would show him twice. If he didn’t get it after that, he would slap him on the back of the hand like a teacher with a ruler to reinforce the lesson plan. As history has shown, B.B. turned out alright.

At 91 years of age, Dr. Lockwood practiced everyday and encouraged others to do the same. He was very insistent with developing musicians about continuous improvement, about learning other styles of music, of the importance of having a teacher, and of being totally committed to the art form. He once spent three hours with a young student sharing stories, coaching him, explaining “that guitar is going to be your woman from now on. You’re going to have to sleep with it [to be good at it]. And you need to get yourself a teacher!” Every time since then, when he saw Lockwood, Lockwood would ask “do you have a teacher yet? Did you hear what I said?!”

Dr. Lockwood set a high bar for his student constituency. He showed respect for other musicians. When he performed with others, he would always ask the audience “would you do me favor? Would you please give everyone you have heard up here today a big round of applause.” He was always well dressed. As a performer he was very adamant about the importance of appearance and was very critical of performers who dressed down. He once asked Mick Jagger “with all that money you have, can’t you afford to buy some decent clothes?”

He also believed in the importance of educating younger audiences so in 2004 and again in 2006, Dr. Lockwood participated in blues education programs hosted by The Blue Shoe Project who recently release a recording of the 2004 event and plans a DVD release later next year. He was joined by his long-time friends Henry Townsend, Pinetop Perkins and Honeyboy Edwards. The four elders gave “storyteller” performances, sharing their lives, their wisdom and their music with 1300 students in Fort Worth, Texas. Once again Dr. Lockwood was the Professor, holding class for the new generation of blues believers, confirming his place in blues history at the head of the class. The 2004 and 2006 events are possibly two of Dr. Lockwood’s last live recordings.

Dr. Lockwood’s contributions to American music and blues in particular earned him two doctoral degrees, making his Doctorate title official. He also received the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship Award, the highest honor our country bestows on performers in the traditional arts, a crowning achievement reserved for a very short list of American performing artists. He received numerous W.C. Handy (now Blues Music) awards, several Grammy nominations, was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and the Delta Blues Hall of Fame, has a street in Cleveland named after him, two Robert Lockwood, Jr. “days”, one in Cleveland and another in Pittsburgh, and too many other awards to mention.

In later years, Dr. Lockwood played a blue custom 12-string electric, one of only two ever made with a resonance that was heavenly. As anyone will tell you, his style was impossible to copy let alone master. Watching him play was a marvel of modern musicianship. Although his prowess as a band leader and composer was extraordinary, his solo compositions on 12-string are arguably the best examples of the spirituality, the complexity, the beauty and the genius that is undeniably Dr. Robert Lockwood, Jr.

His sometimes challenging demeanor was often misinterpreted. Most people would agree that he never mixed words or beat around the bush. If he had something to say, he would lay it out there and you always knew where you stood. And many times his volleys were followed by laughter proving his bark was much worse than his bite.

The other side of Dr. Lockwood was one of the nurturer, the teacher, the professor; sharing of his wisdom, soft-spoken, kind, sincere and one of the most generous people you could ever meet. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and expected nothing in return. But you better need it!

Once again Dr. Lockwood was the teacher, only this time they were much younger that his previous students. He

Dr. Lockwood’s secret of Longevity? He discovered early on that the secret to life was doing what you love to do and he was passionate about music and everything about it. He loved learning music, teaching music and playing music

He was a health nut long before it was popular. He worked out nearly every day. When he had heart problems, he created an inversion plank that allowed him to invert himself regularly to take the pressure off his heart. His problem went away. He was also a naturalist when it came to food. He purchased his meat and poultry from the Amish for years, free of hormones and other unhealthy additives. He once told his long-time friend Henry Townsend he needed to do the same and to get off the “dope meat”.

Although drugs and the entertainment business seem to be synonymous, Dr. Lockwood had no interest in them. His only vices were his music, fried catfish, and a little Hennessey now and then.

Dr. Lockwood was the consummate teacher passing on to others what Robert Johnson had given to him; teaching; about music, about appearance, about commitment, about friendship and about how to live your life – the one and only “Professor of the blues”.

About The Blue Shoe Project

The Blue Shoe Project was fortunate to present Dr. Lockwood in two educational programs that gave thousands of kids the opportunity to appreciate the late great Robert Lockwood, Jr. From this experience, we, like many, became students of the Robert Lockwood School of Life.

More on the web: http://www.blueshoetimes.com

Founded in 2004, The Blue Shoe Project was formed for the purpose of educating and promoting an appreciation for The Blues and roots music in education through the voice of industry legends. For more information about The Blue Shoe Project and a conglomeration of information and photos of Robert Lockwood, Jr. please visit http://www.blueshoeproject.org or http://www.blueshoetimes.com.

If you have questions contact Michael Dyson with The Blue Shoe Project at 817-689-2416 or email [email protected]

Organization http://www.blueshoeproject.org

Please Contact: [email protected]

The Blue Shoe Project is a 501(c)(3) Texas non- profit Educational Organization. Please make your contribution today by visiting our website.


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