For guitar collectors, Zeke Schein is best-known as the long-time salesman you see at Matt Umanov Guitars. What you may not know is that Zeke is also the guy who discovered what may very well be the third photo of Robert Johnson ever unearthed (an eBay find erroneously listed as a BB King photo).
Since purchasing that small photo over a decade ago, Schein has had quite a roller coaster ride. He went through hurdles to get the photo authenticated, he gave the rights to the Robert Johnson Estate and he’s witnessed his unlikely eBay find get reprinted in national magazines. He’s also faced the wrath of blues historians, some of whom rabidly dispute that this is in fact a shot of Johnson at all.
Zeke has written a new book entitled Portrait of a Phantom: The Story of Robert Johnson’s Lost Photograph. Though ostensibly about the discovery of this image, Zeke’s book is about a lot more, too. He writes about his love for the blues, his time at Umanov’s, the New York music scene and why some of us are so compelled to learn more about our music heroes. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Zeke about the photo, his career selling guitars at one of the world’s most famous stores and much more.
This episode of our podcast is brought to you by Retrofret Vintage Guitars.