The photograph, which shows a young Johnson posing with an acoustic guitar, is set to appear in the book Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, written by the supernatural bluesman’s stepsister Annye C. Anderson with Preston Lauterbach. The image brings the total number of confirmed images of Johnson to a total of three.
An interview with Variety reveals that the image was taken in a nickel portrait booth in Memphis when Johnson was around 26/27, which dates the photo to the same era of the famous cigarette image. Anderson detailed why it took so long for the photo to emerge in her Variety interview, saying that it was stored in a trunk for years after her parents passed away.
“I kept Brother Robert’s photograph in my father’s trunk that sat in the hallway of the Comas house while we lived there with my mother after my father died. After my mother died, we could only take so many things. I took my photographs with me, wrapped in a handkerchief. I only carried a few belongings to Ma and Pops Thompson’s house.
“When I moved in with my sister Charlyne, I bought some furniture. I stored the photograph, along with others, in a cedar chest I bought. I’ve always had this photograph. It shows Brother Robert the way I remember him—open, kind, and generous.He doesn’t look like the man of all the legends, the man described as a drunkard and a fighter by people who didn’t really know him. This is my Brother Robert.”
Brother Robert is set to chronicle the tale of Johnson’s legendary life, tracing the tale of his birth, his early musical beginnings and the early recordings that would make him the folk sensation he is today. Anderson also shares memories of Johnson’s romantic history and other personal anecdotes from his lifetime, helping to put together one of music’s most compelling tales ever.
Brother Robert: Growing Up With Robert Johnson is due for publication on Tuesday June 9 via Hachette.