In "Escaping the Delta," I explored the roots and influence of Robert Johnsons music, and tried to place him in the broader perspective of his time and place. This song brings together a lot of the threads that inspired me to write that book. Johnson plays it in a style that suggests that he had been listening to Blind Blake, and my version takes it several steps further into that territory. But it is also a link to the kinds of urban musicians who are usually filed as jazz artists: the same melody was recorded in 1922 by Johnny Dunns Original Jazz Hounds, as "Four OClock Blues" (you can hear it at so clearly the song was around long before Johnson recorded it. Whether the words were Johnsons addition, or learned from some forgotten singer in Memphis, or a mix of both, we probably will never know. (When I say in the video that no one sang them before Johnson did, what I meant is that he was the first to record them.) But the goofy pun in the third verse is a perfect example of the sort of humor in a lot of vaudeville and minstrel show blues numbers, and yet another reminder of the way folk and pop styles overlapped–urban pros like WC Handy learned from rural players, and rural pros like Johnson were paying attention to urban blues, jazz and pop artists.

7 thoughts on “Elijah Wald plays Robert Johnson’s From Four Till Late

  1. Exciting music, very, very well played! Thanks for sharing.

  2. You wrote an outstanding JOSH WHITE bio – I bought & read it some months ago.
    Thank you very much

  3. That was great Elijah. Thanks.I really enjoyed that.- Frank

  4. Dear Gadaya,
    Nice to hear from you–I’ve often visited your blogs… et il faut dire que je suis en train de devenir un citoyen francais… ca fait du bien connaitre quelqu’un qui joue cette musique la-bas.

  5. looool
    Elijah Wald? your using my surname xD
    How many relatives have i got in america, ur not even look like a german xD

  6. That was quite well my friend! Very enjoyable and unique. I’m gonna have alot of fun pickin that out. Cheers to you

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