Rosedale - Rosedale

Rosedale was immortalized in Robert Johnson’s 1937 recording Traveling Riverside Blues. In 1968, Eric Clapton’s group Cream incorporated the verse “Goin’ down to Rosedale” into their version of Johnson’s Cross Road Blues. Although Johnson’s original 1936 version of this song did not mention Rosedale, the town has since become associated with the legend of a bluesman selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads.

Rosedale inspired work by prominent blues artists, including Robert Johnson. Johnson (1911-1938), though among the most influential of all blues musicians, enjoyed limited commercial success as a recording artist during his lifetime.”Traveling Riverside Blues,” from his final session in Dallas, was not even released until twenty-three years after his death, on his landmark 1961 Columbia LP King of the Delta Blues. With that album Johnson’s powerful and poetic blues was introduced to a new generation, including many rock bands who recorded his songs.

Johnson’s original lyrics for “Riverside Blues” traced the route of the Riverside Division of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad (Y&MV), which ran from Friars Point south to Rosedale, Riverside Junction, and other stops. The Y&MV continued to Vicksburg to the south and Memphis to the north. Extolling his diversions “on the Riverside,” Johnson sang, “I got womens in Vicksburg, clean on into Tennessee.” Of all of the towns he mentioned, only Rosedale made it into the band Cream’s “Crossroads” or Led Zeppelin’s version of “Traveling Riverside Blues” (1969). Sexual metaphors were prominent in many blues lyrics, including one that Led Zeppelin reworked from Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” into “The Lemon Song” in 1969. The story of Johnson’s alleged deal with the devil eventually led crossroads seekers to Rosedale, where the legend has been promoted at local venues and festivals.

Blues activity in Rosedale historically revolved around the juke joints of Bruce Street, which date to Johnson’s era and earlier. The town, one of two seats of Bolivar County, was at its most active in the 1930s, before the county’s population began to decline. Delta blues pioneer Charley Patton (1891-1934) spent much of his time in Bolivar County and was the first to sing about Rosedale in his 1929 recording”High Water Everywhere,” a dramatic account of the 1927 Mississippi River flood (“The water done rose, it rose most everywhere…I would go down to Rosedale but they tell me it’s water there.”)

Musicians born in Rosedale include blues singer-pianist Dennis Binder (b. 1928), who began recording in the 1950s, and Isaac “Redd” Holt (b. 1932), a renowned jazz drummer in Chicago.

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