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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues musician, was born Robert Lee McCullum (or McCollum) in Helena, Arkansas. Almost nothing is known of his parents except that his father's surname was McCullum, that his mother's maiden name was McCoy, and that they were sharecroppers. When still in his teens Robert left home to travel and work. He began his musical career as a harmonica player but switched to guitar around 1930 when he and a cousin, Houston Stackhouse, were working on a farm in Murphy's Bayou, Mississippi. Stackhouse, who had traveled with and learned from the Delta blues legend Tommy Johnson, recalled that he taught McCullum to play guitar, passing along much of the Johnson repertoire. At the same time McCullum taught his brother Percy to play harmonica, and the three began playing locally, eventually branching out to such Mississippi venues as Crystal Springs and Jackson.

After a mid 1930s altercation one that ...