PHOTOGRAPH | BILL STEBER
HOUSTON INSTITUTE FOR CULTURE | FEATURED ARTIST
David Johnson, Elba, AL, 1996
Until his death in 1997, guitarist and harmonica player/folk artist David Johnson played Delta-style slide guitar at his home in Elba, AL on an old Stella guitar. Slide guitar technique is thought to have developed from a rudimentary single string African instrument played by sliding a bone or rock the length of the string. In the American South, a similar child's toy called a "diddley bow" often served as the first musical instrument for aspiring young blues players in the Delta. Mississippi blues artists used the slide as a way to mimic the human voice and have their instrument "talk" back to them in a call-and-response style often associated with the black church. It's use spread throughout the country with players using everything from broken bottle necks to knives to produce the distinctive, ethereal sound of genuine Delta blues.