I arrive in Clarksdale after a daylong drive through Oklahoma and Arkansas, passing the famed "Crossroads" of blues legend as I enter town. The Crossroads have a special place in blues mythology as the location where aspiring musicians sold their soul to the Devil in exchange for musical prowess. A bluesman could wait at a crossroads at dark for the Devil, who would take the musician's guitar, tune it, and hand it back. The musicians could then play any song they wanted.
When blues artists referred to the Crossroads, they were likely talking about any number of backroads intersections, but the story has stuck to the intersection of Highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale.
The story is usually associated with Robert Johnson, who hints at the diabolical on songs like "Hellhound on My Trail." But the myth of a Crossroads deal would be better attached to guitarist Tommy Johnson, who boasted about a backroads pact with a shadowy apparition. The Crossroads don't seem as menacing now with a kitschy sign of interlocking guitars marking the spot. But they are a sign that what matters here is the music - and your ability to play it well.
That is what good journalism is about. Doing your homework, and knowing what you are talking about!!