'Dust My Broom' sets the standard for blues guitar

Jan 4, 2013

"I believe I’ll dust my broom" is an old saying meaning to make a new start.

With that catchy phrase, and a distinctive guitar riff Robert Johnson created an important piece of blues history when he recorded “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” in 1936.

True to Johnson’s form, it synthesized existing musical elements in new ways, creating a sound unique to him, a sound that would influence virtually every guitarist to follow him.

Elmore James was certainly influenced by his time playing with Robert Johnson in the mid 30’s. In 1951, he updated the song with what may be the most famous riff in the blues. It became part of his signature sound, and he named his band “The Broomdusters." “Dust My Broom” was among the very first songs that Elmore James released, and in 1959 he re-recorded it with his slide guitar featured more prominently.

Cassandra Wilson has always sung blues, folk and country alongside jazz standards. She recorded “Dust My Broom” in 2007, with a sultry, steamy interpretation. This is a wonderful live performance of the song:

Two years later in 2009, Melinda Doolittle released “Dust My Broom." She had sung backup for Aaron Neville and Jonny Lang and placed third on the 2007 American Idol. Here she is performing the tune live:

Here are the complete versions of “Dust My Broom”

Robert Johnson “I Believe I’ll Dust MyBroom” 1936

Elmore James “ Dust My Broom” 1951 & 1959

Cassandra Wilson “Dust My Broom” 2007

Melinda Doolittle  “Dust My Broom” 2009