On November 23, 1936 Robert Johnson was in San Antonio Texas for his debut recordings. The first song he did was "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" in two versions, his second song was "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" and his third was "Sweet Home Chicago." Though Johnson is usually credited with writing all three songs, there are clear antecedents for each. As far as "Broom" is concerned you would need to look back just over 4 years to a 1932 session in Atlanta Georgia by Aaron Sparks and his brother Milton (real names Aaron and Marion Gant) - as with Johnson, it was their first time in the studio. For the Victor label they cut one of their own compositions "I Believe I'll Make A Change"; it was issued using the pseudonym Pinetop and Lindberg on Victor 78 record. Aaron played piano and Milton played spoons and provided vocals. Leroy Carr and Josh White both did versions of the song in 1934 before Johnson did his interpretation.
Around 1948, Elmore James met up with Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup and Sonny Boy Williamson (who was the second artist using that name, his real name was Aleck "Rice Miller" Ford). Together they played gigs in Arkansas. In 1949, Crudup did a version of "Dust My Broom" and it seems likely that this is how Elmore got to know the song.
Elmore James' recording of "Dust My Broom" is discussed in Steve Franz' book Amazing Secret History of Elmore James. All the versions Elmore did are given in Steve's book. His first go was on August 5th, 1951 for Lillian McMurry's Trumpet label when he was in the studio recording some tracks with Sonny Boy Williamson. Urban legend has it that Elmore was tricked into recording the song by McMurry, though Franz' research gives a somewhat different account of the events that date - Lillian was adamant that Elmore was complicit in the recording. In any case, it was the first title issued with him as leader and it came out on a Trumpet 78 on the flip side of Bobo Thomas' "Catfish Blues." Fortunately for Elmore, Ms. McMurry knew nothing of the earlier versions of "Broom" by Johnson and Crudup because her policy was not to record unoriginal material. By some quirk of fate, Crudup went on to issue a record on Trumpet in 1952 using the not-dissimilar name, Elmer James.
The "Dust My Broom" motif was central to Elmore James recorded output, not only did he return to it on several occasions, the theme was well mined in his other songs. As well as that Trumpet side, James did a version in January 1952 that came out on Modern, in January 1953 for Checker as well as a version in the summer of 1955 for Flair. However, the more commonly known versions are the ones he did for Bobby Robinson in November 1959 and twice in February 1963 shortly before his death. Robinson, a New York record store owner, founded the Fire and Fury stable of imprints. He also knew how to record loud, a skill that allowed Elmore's fierce playing to come to the fore. These later versions by Elmore are very different from the earlier ones, his slide guitar is front and center compared with ensemble playing of harp or sax on the previous attempts.
Artists who have covered this song include Robert Jr. Lockwood, John Littlejohn, Hound Dog Taylor, Homesick James and Frank Zappa.
On September 10, 1934 Kokomo Arnold was in the studio in Chicago. He cut "Sagefield Woman Blues" at the session, which contains (probably) the first mention of the phrase "Dust My Broom" in the lyrics.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards encountered Brian Jones for the first time when he performed this song with Alexis Korner's band at the Ealing Jazz Club. Bill Wyman recounted in the film Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey:
"The very first time Brian heard it, he played Elmore James' 'Dust My Broom.' And Brain said the earth shattered and seemed to go off its axis, it was such an important moment in his life. He just went away and just tried to learn to play like Elmore James. And he sat in with the band, the Alexis Korner band, and played 'Dust My Broom.'
By pure chance, that day Mick and Keith and a couple of their mates who'd been trying to put a band together in Dartford – unsuccessfully – went to see the Alexis Korner show as well, after reading about it in the music press. And they saw Brian Jones sitting onstage, this little white cat, sitting onstage and doing Elmore James, and it blew them away! So that was the Stones. Elmore James was a very, very important part, and if that hadn't happened – that moment – maybe the Rolling Stones wouldn't be here."