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Summary

Robert Johnson is the subject of the most famous myth about the blues: he allegedly sold his soul at the crossroads in exchange for his incredible talent, and this deal led to his death at age 27. But the actual story of his life remains unknown save for a few inaccurate anecdotes. 

Up Jumped the Devil is the result of over 50 years of research. Gayle Dean Wardlow has been interviewing people who knew Robert Johnson since the early 1960s, and he was the person who discovered Johnson's death certificate in 1967. Bruce Conforth began his study of Johnson's life and music in 1970 and made it his mission to fill in what was still unknown about him. In this definitive biography, the two authors relied on every interview, resource, and document, most of it material no one has seen before. As a result, this book not only destroys every myth that ever surrounded Johnson, but also tells a human story of a real person. It is the first book about Johnson that documents his years in Memphis, details his trip to New York, uncovers where and when his wife Virginia died and the impact this had on him, fully portrays the other women Johnson was involved with, and tells exactly how and why he died and who gave him the poison that killed him. Up Jumped the Devil will astonish blues fans who thought they knew something about Johnson.

©2019 Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about Up Jumped the Devil

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The Man The Myth The Music

Well read and well written book of one of the true greats of blues music. Strongly recommend it.

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brilliant listen for all you blues/Robert Johnson

Great story, well read thoroughly enjoyed it, imho possibly the best book on Robert Johnson for me

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for all blues lovers this is a must,

for all blues lovers this is a must, great book. highly enjoyed.

I've read any different tellings of RL 's story but this seemed to be the most honest and factually account.

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Up jumped the devil.

Informative,interesting, enjoyable,well written,well read,addictive.Brilliant factual account.Give this a listen or a read,you wont be disappointed.

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Debunks the Johnson myths

Using a lifetime of their own experience and research, the authors have constructed a comprehensive and detailed biography of this famed bluesman. It effectively debunks the mythology and supposition that's grown in the previous information vacuum. You probably need to be a fan of the blues or pre-war black musical history to appreciate this telling. You'll certainly come out of it well informed and wanting to revisit his recordings. Another valuable and informative book worth exploring is 'Escaping the Delta' by Elijah Wald. Well narrated.

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well put together

Great to hear the facts and myths of such a mysterious historical figure put together in a such a way that believably fleshes him out. It will never be able to give all the answers but its the best narrative of his story that exists to date.
Really well narrated too.

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spectacular

loved it from start till end. interested in the subject matter for yes and truely helped fill in the blanks

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  • William
  • 01-03-20

Amazing

This answers so many questions about Johnson's life and adds understanding to his records. It would have been better with musical examples, so grab a copy of the box set to follow along in the chapters about the recordings in Texas. Like another listener, I felt that though the reader had a good vibe, his pace was plodding and I had to crank him up to 1.25X.

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  • fingerpickerguy
  • 25-12-19

Must listen for blues fans

I have gone most of My adult life being a huge Robert Johnson fan. I was always under the impression that nothing was known about him. Most of what I knew about him Came from the movie Crossroads and a handful of light documentaries.

Enter this book. Many hours of details stitched together wonderfully. The information seemed credible and it provided great context for the music that I know so well and love so much. I particularly liked the break down of the lyrics that I never put much thought into.

My only hang up was the narration. Wow. Can you say boring? I sped it up to 1.25 and that made it tolerable.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Frank E. Forrester
  • 19-10-19

Whoever loves music should read/listen to this.

I have gone through and loved many genres of music in my 40 years on this pale blue dot, but the blues... As Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones once said "The only good thing America has gave to the world is the Blues."
I think this book is a must-read for anyone who loves music and especially anyone who loves the blues.
I want to thank the author and the person who read it aloud and the people who put it together to be in audiobook format where I could enjoy this. Thank you.
Robert Johnson has forever changed the landscape of music it will always be one of my heroes.

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  • Oskar Andersson
  • 26-09-19

unique story!

Greatest story in american music history. A true breakthrough in the research about Robert Johnson. I really enjoyed the whole book!

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  • Adelaide Steedley
  • 19-08-19

Excellent informative empathetic story

Brings Johnson to life in a way that helps enrich his music. I hear his music in ways I didn't before, thank you for giving Robert his life back.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Christopher J Vezeau
  • 15-11-21

Very detailed biography

A little on the slow side, but very interesting for someone (like myself) wanting to learn more about one the blues' founding fathers.

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  • Bighead
  • 14-08-21

The unexplained life of Robert Johnson

although extensively researched and very well written, this is another book that seems to have a lot of inaccuracies and myth building stories embedded in it. I think at this time it would be impossible to truly tell the story of the life of Robert Johnson. We have his music and we have all the books that have been written about him, and if we combine all the stories, we can come up with a fuzzy picture of his life. For its technical research and information, this book is highly recommended.

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  • jdcblink13
  • 18-11-20

Essential, fantastic

This is an incredible account about one of music's most mysterious artists. The amount of detail alone is mind blowing. Any fan of the blues and American culture should listen to this.

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  • Mr. Charles M. Bonfante
  • 26-10-20

Well done and presented

An interesting view on the life of someone that we know very little about. Enjoyable.

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  • pablo
  • 19-06-20

Find me the truth

The book was very interesting I liked that it had a lot of facts about the great man and self also there was parts and pieces that I had never read before another works overall it was a great read the only thing I did not like was some other names I feel were changed to protect some of the white racist people back in the day