The Devil Is in the Details of a Bluesman’s Legacy

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DALLAS — Few figures in pop culture are more closely linked to the devil than Robert Johnson. Not only did the blues hero write “Me and the Devil Blues” and “Hellhound on My Trail,” but legend has it that he sold his soul in exchange for his guitar skills.

In a twist, a Dallas church is now preserving the legacy of the bluesman who sang about walking alongside Satan.

In June, the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas bought 508 Park Avenue, the downtown building where, in 1937, Johnson recorded almost half of the 29 songs that make up his entire discography. The church purchased the dilapidated three-story Art Deco building after its previous owner tried to have it demolished because it was unmarketable, due in part to its proximity to the Stewpot, a community center run by First Presbyterian that provides medical services and counseling for Dallas’s homeless.

“Robert Johnson’s signature song is ‘Cross Road Blues,’ and a lot of people we serve are at the crossroads, too, brushing shoulders with the negative side of life,” said the Rev. Bruce Buchanan, executive director of the Stewpot and an associate pastor at First Presbyterian. “Johnson’s story isn’t foreign to us at all.”...

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