Robert Johnson Photo Questioned
After writing about this picture a couple of weeks ago, I heard via e-mail and Facebook from several authoritative readers who deny that it is indeed Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines. Some questioned the accuracy of the forensics report by Lois Gibson of the Houston Police Department, others based their doubts on the clothing, arguing that the man on the right is wearing a zoot suit which didn't come into fashion until the early '40's. Johnson died in 1938.
From the moment I first saw the picture several years ago, I didn't so much question that it was Johnson as I did the identification of the other man as Shines. This man looks strikingly different from the Johnny Shines I saw in the '70's and '80's, which is also the timeframe for most of the photos we have of the great bluesman. But Shines ran with Johnson at various times, and he gave some credence to the possibility that this is the two of them when he told an interviewer that he and Robert were photographed in 1937 by a woman named Johnnie Mae Crowder for a local newspaper in Hughes, Arkansas.
If that photo is still in existence, this apparently isn't it. Be that as it may, Getty Images accepted this "third photo" of Johnson from the Johnson estate , and that's what made the news on February 1.