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A Guitar, A Cello, and The Day That Changed Music


Robert Johnson and Pablo Casals. (Robert Johnson Studio Portrait © 1989 Delta Haze Corporation)

November 23, 1936 was a good day for recorded music. Two men – an ocean apart – sat before a microphone and began to play. One was a cello prodigy who had performed for the Queen of Spain; the other played guitar and was a regular in the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta.

But on this day 75 years ago, Pablo Casals and Robert Johnson both made recordings that would change music history.
Production notes:
Our story ends with a song put together by Brendan Baker, imagining Casals and Johnson performing together.

Thanks to author Paul Elie (who led us to this idea), musician Scott Ainslie, and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. And we want to remember and celebrate the long and wonderful musical careers of blues guitarist Honeyboy Edwards and cellist Bernard Greenhouse. Both men continued to perform into their 90’s, and both men died not long after we interviewed them for this story.


Listen to “When Robert Met Pablo,” a remix by Brendan Baker – (download)

Listen to Pablo Casals’ Sarabande in C

Listen to Robert Johnson’s Ramblin’ On My Mind


Radio Diaries is part of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best story-driven podcasts on the planet. This week’s episode is sponsored by The Great Courses.


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