I heard the news this morning that blueser David “Honeyboy” Edwards has died at age 96. I first interviewed Edwards in 1991 in Atlanta. Like all music writers who interviewed (over-interviewed) Edwards, I asked him about the night Robert Johnson died.
When he died, I had been working out there at the place with him, out there about three miles out of Greenwood. And late that night, Saturday night, oh, about 12 o’clock. Robert were not around, the man picked him up who owned the joint, went out of his mind, started carrying him out to the place, you know. Get him out before somebody else get him ’cause a lot of country dances were given at that time. They carried him out, I told him I’d be out later.
And about 12 o’clock, you know, in Greenwood everything close up at 12 o’clock on Saturday night, so it was blackout, like that, at that time. You had to be off the street at 12. At 11:30 lights be flashing and you’d get off the streets, go in the country somewhere, leave there.
We got on a little truck, went out there. We got out there, he was sitting in the corner with the guitar on his arm. People’s all half drunk coming out to see him, coming out to hear him play.
We got there and he was so sick, they’d say play me the blues. Play me the “Terraplane Blues.” Come on, play Robert, play. He said, “I don’t feel good.” He said, “I’m sick like death.” People didn’t seem to think anything of it. “Come on, get another drink. Have another.” And about a while, then, he tried to play one or two numbers, but he couldn’t do nothing. People found out he was sick sure enough, they stopped pulling that shit and let him go.
They brought him back to town around three or four. When we brought him back to town he was sick that long, he was real sick, he had got poisoned.
He had a room in Baptist Town, place, black part of town was called Baptist Town — Greenwood. We carried him over there. So I went to see him Sunday, he was real sick. I went back on Monday, he wasn’t doing no better. He was just writhing, crawling around, crying and going on, you know. He was messed up.
If it had been like now, the fire department could have pumped that stuff out of him, you know what I mean. It was a dangerous poison, but it wasn’t that deadly poison. Had it been a deadly poison, it would have killed him right away. But he lied around Sunday, Monday, Tuesday — he died on Tuesday. He died on Tuesday.
© 1991-2011 D.S. Rotenstein