Church says upkeep costly for bluesman's gravesite

Posted: Friday, February 27, 2004

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church finds it both a blessing and a curse that one of the world's most popular blues musicians is buried in its cemetery.

Hundreds visit the cemetery each year, most to see the grave of bluesman Robert Johnson. With the traffic comes $1,000 a month in cleanup costs for the 90-member church.

Fans leave everything from pennies to drugs at the grave, said Sylvester Hoover, a deacon at Little Zion. In recent days, beer cans and liquor bottles were strewn about.

Johnson died in 1938. His grave in the church's cemetery was unmarked until 2000 when a gravedigger's wife verified Johnson's final resting place. A tombstone was installed in 2001.

Johnson died poor, but his music was discovered by later generations of musicians, including Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones, who made his work known internationally.

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