His frame was crippled by the poverty of his upbringing: polio in the legs, a touch of rickets in the upper arms, scoliosis due to malnutrition, and a laundry list of other debilitations. Yet his hands were as strong as any there ever were, and his eyesight keen, and those who heard him swore him to be the finest acoustic guitar player who’s ever lived.

In those far-off sticky summer days, he and his band would roam the Delta countryside, playing for whatever paying audiences they could find. The money was never more than a pittance, most of which went to offset the cost of care, wheelchairs, and the demands of nervous musicians afraid to be associated with a man many believed to be cursed. As was the case with many in those days, there were dark whispers that he’d dealt with Old Scratch, trading his physical strength for fiendish skill.

No one can quite agree on his ultimate fate, but all concede that his was a life cut short. Some maintain that he drank himself into an early pauper’s grave somewhere in the New Orleans wards. Other have him drowning when a riverboat capsized, dragging him into the deep buckled into a wheelchair. Darker tales speak of a midnight lynching when he bested a favorite son in a musical duel or when a stillborn and strangely twisted child was born to a local belle.

But his guitar…well, that went to Woody’s, the establishment where he played most of his gigs. It hangs over the stage to this day, still fully strung more than 70 years later. It’s been said that whoever can coax a tune out of it will have some fabulous reward; equally prevalent is the whisper of a terrible fate awaiting anyone unlucky enough to strum those cursed catguts.

Let’s find out, shall we?