The Crossroads…

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The Crossroads in Clarksdale Mississippi where legend says that the musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil for guitar playing prowess.

I was inspired by this story when I wrote the words for my song “Crossroads Of My Life”. I went out and looked up everything I could about “The Crossroads” and that is where I got the inspiration for the song.

There was a preacher that once told me that my music has unnatural influences. He was talking about my third album, “Crossroads Of My Life”. He said that I couldn’t have written the lyrics to those songs by myself.

My trip to the crossroads.

Let me go back. In late fall 2011 my manager took us out to the crossroads in Clarksdale Mississippi to shoot some pictures for my first album, “Have Mercy On Me”.

We had the whole band out there to shoot some pictures while we played. So we are out there playing, shooting some pictures, when my first cousin Tommy Davis out of nowhere says, “ you better be careful man, or you will call him up”. By “him” he meant the ”Devil”. He was only joking around when he said this. I said, “who”, because I had no idea what he was talking about.


Everyone that listens to the blues knows about the story of Robert Johnson supposedly selling his soul to play guitar.

Folklore says that if you come you need to leave something and you must use the power of three (candy, money, or whatever you’ve got). To pay my respects I decided to leave something. Reaching into my pocket I took out three pennies…

I didn’t think much of it and I certainly didn’t expect anything to happen. I flipped each one up into the air. Right at that moment there was this breeze where I stood. Where I was standing got really cold. There was this chill that I could feel down to my bones.

When the pennies came down, they all landed on heads right next to each other at my feet.

It seriously freaked me out! For the rest of the day I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. When I told my guitar player Mickey Rogers he said, “you’ve got your luck. If you go back out there they will be on tails”.

That experience changed what I thought about that place. I’ve always believed in God and the Devil but only figuratively. I don’t know what happened but it definitely wasn’t natural.

My belief is the talent that I have is a gift from God and he is the guiding hand in my life. There is good and evil in the world. I put my life in God’s hands because I believe he has a purpose in my music.

Whenever I go to that place I get this odd feeling like it holds some secret. It’s an almost visceral experience whenever I go there. There really is something special about that place. If you want to get that hair standing feeling – that’s the place to go!

I never did go back out there and check to see if those pennies were now lying on tails.

Here’s a free download of the song, “Crossroads Of My Life”. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below. I’d love to know what you think.

How I came to love the blues.

My parents had a major influence on me and the kind of music I play. Just before my dad died, he told me – he said, “son you go out there and play your music. Just remember who you are”. He gave me his blessing.

My affinity for this lifestyle can be traced all the way back to my childhood. I was always drawn to music and admired those who played it. My uncle Clinton (Uncle Butch) showed me how to play the guitar when I was 9 years old and it’s been a love affair ever since.

It’s an addiction I have never been able to shake – nor would I want to for that matter. When I have these ideas buzzing around in my head, I have to get them out. If you put a guitar in a musicians hands, they will start playing it. It’s just who we are. You either have it or you don`t.

I`ve been playing music for 30 years… playing the nastiest juke joints and fanciest country clubs and I prefer the juke joints much better. I’ve played nearly every hole in the wall bar in the Southern US, toured Europe, Canada and Mexico.

Many of the hole in the wall bars I played were so rough and tumble that I started to carry my 38. And would bring it in when I played. There was this base player I played with one time in a casino in Nevada. He had this small hollowed out compartment in his amp where he hid a .45. He told me, “if anything goes down I got your back”.

Learning where to hide when the guns went off. I really developed an affinity for, and a predisposition to the blues. Blues music represented a value system and a way of life that was eye opening for me.

It related to me as a young man trying to navigate my way through marriage and own up to my struggles and shortcomings. Not only was this music that connected with people and was really fun to play, but it also had romance and tradition.

You don’t have to experience the blues to play it. However I believe that those that live the blues play it best. Those cats that experienced real oppression and the horror that comes when you are faced by humanities greatest fear – total annihilation.

The blues becomes something to hang on to. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. After it’s all over you can start to make peace with your demons through the healing power of the blues. I believe the blues originated as a coping mechanism for the slaves. It gave them hope for a better future.

The blues is so emotionally gripping because of the intense emotions that go into it’s creation. It’s hard to imagine how so much suffering could produce something so striking as the blues.

And you – my audience.

Above all these others things I mentioned there`s the relationship with my audience. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously. I tell my stories in the hopes that you can relate with them to the point where they become just as personal to you as they are to me. And this relationship stretches beyond music.

When I write one of these posts or sit down next to someone at a diner after a show and just get to chatting, it becomes about life. I am a wisened veteran musician and songwriter, who isn’t afraid of what life throws at me.

I stand before you all these years later guitar in hand and my latest full album, “Johnny Riley Live @ Bluesberries Cafe”. It’s a collection of the 12 most recent songs of a musical journey that has taken me through hell in the pursuit of three chords and the truth.

It’s gritty unmistakably blues that is sometimes about having a good time and the consequences of having those good times. It would be my honor if you would give it a listen.

Find out more about “Live @ Bluesberry Cafe” here.

What is your take on the crossroads? Do you think something hangs around there? Let me know in the comments below.

70 Comments

  • Dana says:

    I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you. Love you and your music!

    • Johnny Riley says:

      Thanks for watching! Happy to have you on board.

      • John says:

        Love it, and like you theres something there,called the BLUES. I love blues,and thought this among your best lead guitar player is awesome by the way

      • Michael McDowell says:

        Love the music and the sound. Keep up the good work

        • Johnny Riley says:

          Sorry for the late response. Im just getting back on top of things after the Holidays. Thank you for checking out my music! I’m glad you are enjoying it!

      • Bill Mertz says:

        Man that is some seriously good Blues
        I’m turning my friends on to you
        If you put out a Album not a CD I’ll buy it

        • Johnny Riley says:

          Thanks Bill! I’m glad you enjoyed the free tracks. We are working on a new album right now. There’s always a digital download option as well. Thanks for the shout out man!

      • Fred Mcree says:

        You play some good music my friend

        • Johnny Riley says:

          Sorry for the late response. I missed your comment. Thank you I appreciate that!

        • I believe we all have a hidden spiritual side that in todays world has been lost hidden or tucked away. Some feel it some know it. I’ve learned to follow my gut. Its the first an almost never wrong feeling we have. I’m sure the spirit’s of crossroads have more stories to tell. Go back with an open mind an tell there stories through music its what they began on.

      • jenny garrow says:

        Johnny Riley, you’re definitely a stort-tellin’ Blues man. What’s the blue’s, without your life storyline is nothing.. I love ya, keep doing what you’re doin. You got it sounding awesome…Thanks for sharing…
        I want more…

      • Y says:

        Never heard of this crossroad you speak of but loved the story of it.
        Great sound from you and your band, I like the raspy ness of your voice.
        Looking forward to more tunes

        • Johnny Riley says:

          It’s talked about as much anymore. I do like to go out there once in a while to pay hommage to the greats. There’s more music coming down the pipeline so keep an eye out for that.

    • Gary Gerhard says:

      I love a good ghost story especially when it has a sliver of Truth on it.
      I look forward to your storytelling. Thank you Johnny.

    • Rex Bitner says:

      There are places like that. Were the vibe comes from, l am not sure. I play myself, but just to feel good. Love and peace be with you. RGB2

    • Gainia Finley says:

      Love your Crossroads story, it gave me chicken skin! Don’t go back to look, the world gave you your sign that day ❤

    • Tonya Merchant aka Mama T says:

      I believe completely in God to start off but there is a lot of evil and let’s just say I have encountered what your talking on occasion in different places! I am a longtime fan of the blues, have loved em from a very young age!

    • Rocky Harvey says:

      I do believe the crossroads have a spiritual feel be careful what you sell them.I think 3 pennies landing on heads has done you well love your blues brother!

    • Gerald Majchrzak says:

      Loved lyrics and the rythym guitar.Thank you my goodness what a story about your pennies. Im curious if theyre on tails.

  • Dana says:

    I do enjoy you, your music and style. Keep on playing and enjoy the ride!

  • John Draisey says:

    I have listened to the song many times now and from my side as a DJ this song is great. Thanks to Jenni I have had the chance to listen to other songs by you and everyone of them just keep getting better and better. Keep up the awesome job and always stay true to your art don’t let anyone tell you that you need to change you do it your way and how you feel.

    • Johnny Riley says:

      Thanks John. That really means a lot to me! I’m working on a new album and will be releasing it soon.

    • Eddy Sierras says:

      Hey Johnny, outstanding music, love your style and love the blues. I do believe some things may be very possible out at the crossroads, any ways, love the music. Thanks for the downloads.

      • Johnny Riley says:

        I believe so too and it might be where it all began. Thank you reading and keep an eye out because there’s more 😉

      • Craig E Fritz says:

        Great sound Great Song Love it.Ive always loved the blues I listen to it all the time. Thanks For Sharing i did get the hair standing chills. Many people don’t believe in God and the Devil. I do. You won’t need to sell your soul your music,sound and style is awesome I’ll be sharing your journey with you and purchasing your CDs. Best Regards

        • Johnny Riley says:

          Thank you so much for reading my post and for the compliments. It’s a blessing to have such support from you. Keep an eye out for more music coming your way soon. Take care! Johnny

  • Pastor says:

    I’m digging Your Sound Johnny ! Thanks You Guys !!!!

  • Carl Sherman says:

    I really like your sound.

  • Rene Ray says:

    There is no Devil except man. He’s the Creator and destroyer. Flipping coins are just random probabilities and you should of flipped them again and again to check out your theory. Your voice is great and have good music, kept going.

  • Ray Hagan says:

    The more I hear the more I like.Have always been a blues listener but in my older years have become more a blues lover. As far as the “Crossroads” , I have never had the chance to visit. However I do believe in spiritual intuition. If something like that happens to me I think it is a supernatural thing. If you FELT it pay attention, someone is trying to tell you something.

    • Johnny Riley says:

      It really is an amazing place even if you are not interested in it’s history. Yes the blues really does get better as you get older. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Donald Donohoo says:

    I like your music man it’s grounded down here where I’m from.

  • Steve Dornan says:

    I didn’t used to be live in ghosts.. But my wife does.. And now I’m not so sure.. Great song I love your voice it fits the blues so well. It’s musicians like you that brought to the blues back in the eighties.. Been a blues fan ever since..

    • Johnny Riley says:

      Thanks for reading my blog post! Me neither. This was one of those experiences I just couldn’t explain. It was Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and all those other cats that got me into the blues. It’s been unshakable ever since.

  • Kirby Selcer says:

    I have enjoyed your music. I need to order a CD so I can hear more of it. Let the mystery of the three pennies stay at the crossroads. You and your band sound great.

  • Jim Stolfi says:

    There are places on earth where certain things happen that can not be explained. The Crossroads is one of those places and it affected you. The best blues are played by artists that play from their soul, not sheet music. I learned that after playing in bands for 30 years and I never could read one note. You and your bans have the soul for, great “feel”!!!

    • Johnny Riley says:

      Yes there are. This is a special place for all fans of the blues. I have to agree with you on that. There’s more to playing the blues than just knowing the instruments.These are just tools we use to let our soul speak through. I’d love to hear you play sometime. Maybe I’ll see you down the road.

  • Linda Black says:

    John, Keep going and don’t look back! You’re on to something here! The sound is Great!

  • Rev Mike “LA” Keller says:

    Johnny I believe!! Yes I truly believe in the spiritual. For several years. Myself and business partner who shared the same would have visitors.
    Love you music
    Keep up the awesome work.
    Be nice when we get control of this virus

  • Allen williamson says:

    I believe brother, love the blues since I was 12. Great music 🎼

  • João Carlos Mota says:

    Hi Johnny, I have the movie A Encruzilhada with Joe Seneca, but as for the fact that you go there and feel something strange, it is proof that it is not legend, but true, but I think you should not mess with anyone who is quiet , just out of curiosity, friend hug !!

  • Vicki Pounders says:

    Hey Johnny,
    I have always had a love for good blues music and you definitely have the gift of being a great blues man. I do believe in the crossroads but probably will never get the opportunity to visit there. I’m glad you didn’t go back to check the pennies, it possibly could have changed the course of your life. Hopefully when you are able to continue your adventure I will be able to catch one of your shows here in the great state of Texas. Keep up the great work!!!

    • Johnny Riley says:

      Thanks for reading my story! There was no need to go back out there. What I experienced was convincing enough for me. I don’t tempt the Lord. We’re playing shows all the time in Texas. I would love to meet you sometime down the road!

      Take care!

      • Vicki Pounders says:

        Johnny,
        You will have to let me know when you play some shows Houston, I live in a small town about 30 miles south of Houston. I would love to meet you and throw some ideas at you about my life. Since I was 16 my life has been full of ups and downs that I’m sure you could write a great blues tune with. Looking forward to meeting you one day.

        Just out of curiosity are you the one replying to these messages or do you have a pr person who replies for you?

        Thank you for making me a part of your story. Keep on keeping on.

        V. Pounders

  • Ian Marlowe says:

    You’ve got the touch brother, I like this

  • jerry says:

    Love the music. Blues is truly life’s journey through good and bad mixed with the emotions of all. Your journey is a continuation of your life and journeys to come. The Crossroads itself holds magic if one believes it does, if not it does not, one must believe in themselves and the magic of those who came before. Great story Johny!

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