Clarksdale Crossroads – Clarksdale, Mississippi - Atlas Obscura

Clarksdale Crossroads

Giant novelty guitars now mark the spot where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil. 


Clarksdale, Mississippi has a history inextricably intertwined with blues music with a number of famed musicians hailing from the Southern city, but its best known claim to fame is likely the crossroads where the famous legend of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent is said to have taken place. 

As the oft-mimicked story goes, down on his luck (is there any other kind?) blues singer Robert Johnson was walking along when he came to the Clarksdale crossroads. It was here that he met a stranger who offered to tune his guitar, which Johnson accepted. Little did the young bluesman know that this mysterious stranger was Old Mr. Scratch himself, THE DEVIL. Whether or not Johnson knew that his innocuous bargain was of the Faustian variety is up for debate, but according to the legend the results were the same. Robert Johnson would go on to become the greatest blues player of his day, and possibly ever, bringing crowds to near frenzy. 

Whether the story is to be believed assumedly depends largely on one’s belief in the devil or his bizarre obsession with creating legendary musicians, but the real Robert Johnson is remembered as one of the finest bluesmen of all time.

Since the story has always been vague and takes on new dimensions with seemingly every retelling, the location of the actual crossroads (if there ever were any) it is based on is not known, but Clarksdale, Mississippi claims to be the place. At the modern intersection of US Highways 61 and 49, there is a pole marking the exact spot where the deal is said to have gone down. The road sign is decorated with three giant blue guitars and a board naming it as “The Crossroads.” 

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