Arkansas Delta Bluesman Dies

NOVEMBER 21, 2006 - Posted at 11:31 a.m. CST

CLEVELAND, OHIO - Robert Lockwood, Jr., a pioneering Mississippi Delta blues guitarist and singer, has died.  He was 91.

Lockwood died of respiratory failure at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio yesterday.  Hospital spokesman George Stamatis says Lockwood had been a patient since suffering a stroke on November 3.

Lockwood was born in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas.  At age 11, he started guitar lessons with legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, who breifly moved in with Lockwood's mother in the Helena area.

"He never showed me nothing two times," Lockwood said in a 2005 interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, explaining that Johnson never showed him the same guitar lick more than once.  Lockwood said that he picked up the foundation of the way Johnson played.

Lockwood worked on street corners and in bars and became a musical mentor to B.B. King, who listened to Lockwood in the 1940s on the "King Biscuit Time" radio show broadcast from Helena, Arkansas.

Lockwood moved to Chicago in the 1950s and was a session player on records by Little Walter, Sunnyland Slim, Roosevelt Sykes and other blues musicians.  He branched out from the Delta-style blues to jump blues, jazz and funk.  In 1960, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and played in blues clubs for decades.

As a solo performer, Lockwood earned Grammy nominations for two albums: "I Got to Find Me A Woman" and "2000's "Delta Crossroads."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)