Stephen Koch, the host of KUAR’s “Arkansongs” and occasional columnist and contributor to the Times, passes along this news of the passing of Arkansas native Robert Lockwood Jr., a regular performer at the annual Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (formerly King Biscuit) at Helena and one of the last surviving roots bluesman. Here are some of Koch’s thoughts on the great Lockwood, who had taken ill on Nov. 3 and died Tuesday at age 91 in Cleveland:
Robert Lockwood Jr. was internationally known for his jazz-inflected blues guitar work, but also as a musical link with the most celebrated of prewar bluesmen, Robert Johnson.
Johnson lived with Lockwood and Lockwood’s mother in Helena, and taught him some guitar basics. But Lockwood developed a blues style all his own – most often played on twelve-string guitar – and became influential in his own right.
Born in Turkey Scratch, he was a King Biscuit Boy on KFFA’s ground-breaking King Biscuit Time radio program. In the 1950s, he recorded with the likes of
Sunnyland Slim, Little Walter and fellow Phillips County native Roosevelt Sykes. Lockwood’s own recordings earned Grammy nominations in 1998 and 2000.
He was well-known to Arkansas audiences for his frequent appearances at festivals in the state.
Alternately known as Robert Junior Lockwood and Robert Lockwood Junior, he died in Cleveland, Ohio, where he’d been based since 1960. He was 91.