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Robert In Memphis

Robert In Memphis

1916-1920 – Robert experiences life in (3) Memphis.

The Spencer household was just around the corner from Beale Street and Robert’s older brother Leroy spent time in the musical establishments in the area (dance halls, bars, etc.) and plays some guitar. He probably brings home records of the day and teaches Robert a few elements of guitar playing. During Robert’s stay in Memphis the city was regularly visited by the Ringling Brothers Circus, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and other hallmarks of mainstream popular culture. Whether Robert even went to the circus is irrelevant, because he still would have been aware of its presence and almost certainly would have gathered with other children to watch the grand circus parades with all their animals and entertainers. Memphis provides young Robert with a taste of urbanity and sophistication that the plantation can never match. Interestingly, several elements of Memphis life and culture show up in his recorded songs. His “From Four Until Late” uses the exact same melody and very similar title as Memphis musician Johnny Dodd’s popular song (recorded in 1920 but almost certainly played before then) “Four Until Late Blues.” Johnson’s song even includes mention of Memphis in the lyrics.