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Home Texas Jefferson County Beaumont Blind Willie Johnson

Blind Willie Johnson

  Texas Historical Markers
1440 Forrest St., Beaumont, TX, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 30° 5' 44.41236", -94° 6' 23.69592"
    Texas State
Historical Marker
    Willie Johnson was born near Independence, Texas, in 1897 to Willie and Mary (Fields) Johnson. His family moved to Marlin when Johnson was a young boy, and it was there that he first learned gospel songs at church. His first guitar was said to be made from a cigar box. Johnson lost his sight as a child, possibly as the result of an accident at home.

Johnson grew up in and around Marlin singing on the streets there and in nearby Hearne. He later moved to Dallas and continued as a sidewalk performer. Between 1927 and 1930, Johnson recorded a total of 30 songs in four recording sessions in Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta for Columbia Records' Race series (for African American Artists), and sold about 5,000 records each year from 1929 to 1934. Johnson and his family settled in Beaumont, purchased a home, and lived in the town for the rest of his life. After his recording career ended, johnson earned a meager living as a street musician and preacher; he operated the House of Prayer in his home at 1440 Forrest Street.

After Johnson's death in 1945, his recordings brought him great commercial popularity, and his music has been rereleased several times and covered by many notable musicians. His gospel recordings display his moving but raspy singing voice and mastery of the slide guitar. In 1977, Johnson's recording of Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground was chosen for inclusion on the Golden Record compiled to shocase the diversity of Earth's cultures and sent out of our solar system on the Voyager I spacecraft.

This page last updated: 12/20/2010 15:48:42

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Marker located outside of the Pilgrim's Rest Missionary Baptist Church.

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Blind Willie Johnson Historical Marker Location Map, Beaumont, Texas

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