Interview with Zeke Schein – A New Photo of Robert Johnson Comes to Light

Robert Johnson poses with fellow blues musician Johnny Shines in the newly released photograph.
L. Photo of Robert Johnson with Johnny Shines discovered by Zeke Schein, published in Vanity Fair
R. Previously released photo of Johnson

On today’s show I speak with Zeke Schein, musician and vintage guitar expert who recently discovered a previously unknown or thought to be lost photo of Robert Johnson with another man who may well be Johnny Shines (this would be by far the earliest known photo of Shines, and he looks quite different as an older man).  The photo has just come out in Vanity Fair, together with an article telling its remarkable story.  I met Zeke at a cafe on 7th Ave. in Brooklyn and over coffee we discussed his own musical background, introduction to blues and the musical community and exchange of ideas that takes place at Matt Umanov Guitars in Greenwhich Village where Zeke works.  We talked about the photo itself, how Zeke found it, and what he has hoped to do by publishing it and through out we spin a bunch of records relevant to the program.  Looking at this photograph brings home to me, among other things, just how young Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines were, and how hip they were- Nice suits!

15 Responses to “Interview with Zeke Schein – A New Photo of Robert Johnson Comes to Light”

  1. lovercat Says:

    werd up, so glad to finally see it!

  2. Homeboy Steve Says:

    Great interview. I was lucky enough to have a vinyl copy of King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol 1 & 2 when I was coming up, saw Johnny Shines and Robert Jr. Lockwood in the 70’s and am thrilled to have this new pic. Look at those fingers ! Thank you so much for bringing this to light. I’m not sure if I would have found out in time to catch Vanity Fair while it was still on the newstand. Nice to know some young folks are still interested.

  3. Robert Coalson Says:

    Is there any way to find out what Honeyboy Edwards thinks of this picture? He knew both Johnson and Shines…. I’d certainly be very interested to hear what he has to say about it.

  4. drybone Says:

    Well this just made my day! Thanks.

  5. Theou Says:

    Thank you very much for that interview and for that excellent radio that I’ve just discovered !

  6. Stuartink Says:

    Zeke is a man blessed with an honest and natural integrity. He is the quiet soul that the hand of legacy would pass such a document from one generation to another and the voice that would speak of both the sin and redemption that is America and her Blues. We are certainly at a crossroads now so thanks Zeke for keepimg a keen eye out for the sign posts that keep our path honest and true.

  7. Brian Kramer Says:

    What a great interview, nice & laid back…
    Great to hear John Campbell & Chris Whitley back to back playing their Nationals!
    Thanks for the mention from Zeke and thanks for including my version of Ramblin’ on my Mind from an old cassette from 92’…
    (I knew that thing would haunt me someday)

  8. Mike Says:

    The photo is fake.

    Look at where the shoulders of the 2 men meet, and trace down from the shoulder to “RJ’s” hand, then to his forearm.

    This is pure collage. The lighting is different in the 2 zones. Completely different.

    You can even see the difference, in the form of a horizontal line of different backgrounds travelling from the tip of “Shine’s” hat down to the shoulder area of the 2 men.

    It’s great that people love RJ, but sad that they perpetrate these hoaxes.

  9. admin Says:

    The photo is legit, the original photo has been seen and authenticated by a number of people.

  10. Mike Says:

    All you need to do is look at the area in the above picture, right above the O and the C (of VF.COM).

    This area shows a forearm (black suit) overlapping a shoulder area in the background (white suit)

    Very obvious, and very poorly executed collage work.

    Don’t get me wrong, nothing against someone who might have purchased this “picture” on ebay.

  11. Cheapfeet Says:

    Soooooooooo not Robert Johnson & Johnny Shines. Embarrassing this photo got so much attention

  12. admin Says:

    Hey everybody, photo seems to be about as real as they come. Very cool. Zeke says:

    “the photo was recently authenticated. here are two links regarding this.
    best wishes,

    zeke “

  13. Cheapfeet Says:

    Finally the leading Blues scholars have had enough of this bull & Bruce Conforth has put together an article with over 40 signatures from leading Blues scholars, none of whom think for a second this is a photo of RJ & Johnny Shines. Because it’s not.

  14. Frank Matheis Says:

    I am one of the signators to this article by Dr. Bruce Conforth.
    There is NO doubt in my mind that this is in no way a depiction of either Robert Johnson or Johnny Shines.
    It is a photo of two lads with a gag guitar in the photo booth looking cool.
    Nothing more.

  15. Zeke Schein Says:

    Here’s a Formal Response from the Estate of Robert Johnson stating that they support the authenticity of the photo.

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