New speculation has emerged.
Although the crossroads at hwy 61 and hwy 49 in Clarksdale is believed to be the legendary crossroads where Robert Johnson made his pact with the devil, and is definitely the spot where people go to pay their respects, new evidence suggests this is NOT the crossroads where the famous pact was made.
According to the bluesmen of the south, most well into their 80’s and 90’s, as well as some historians and blues researchers, the crossroads he is referring to is actually in Rosedale.
Even in the song he mentions the city: “Going up to Rosedale, got my rider by my side”. The truth is, of course, no one will ever know for sure. But there is someone who knew.
That someone is legendary blues musician Son House. Son said he knew for a fact where Johnson made his deal, and it wasn’t in Clarksdale, but in Rosedale. In fact, he claims in was right where Hwy 8 intersects with Hwy 1. That’s the real crossroads, he says.
More proof is in the folklore of the devil himself. According to legend, and some voodoo claims, the devil always hangs close to the river. The devil, marking his territory with an “X” (thus the crossroads) would not and could not make his mark so far from the river as Clarksdale. Rosedale, on the other hand, is right by the river.
Truth is, no one will ever truly know which crossroads are the “real” crossroads. Except the devil himself and Mr. Johnson. But I find it entirely plausible that this could be the true crossroads themselves…. According to this folklore, Johnson did not go to the crossroads seeking the devil. The devil was waiting for him as Johnson passed through from Beulah on his way to Helena. Johnson was greeted by tyhe devil and his dog, and the dog seized Robert and shook him violently; When he did, the strings in Johnson’s guitar shook and vibrated and the blues emerged from those sounds. The devil told Johnson, “the dog is not for sale, but you can buy that sound.” Robert wanted it so bad, the deal was made. From there, he was a master.
Who knows the truth though? “Science” says he got that good through diligent practice, and a natural ability. But the blues was never about Science, was it?