Charley Patton

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Charley Patton
Charley-Patton-002.jpg
The only known photograph of Patton (cropped)
Background information
Also known as
  • The Masked Marvel
  • Elder J. J. Hadley
Born Unknown
Hinds County, Mississippi, U.S.
Died April 28, 1934
Sunflower County, Mississippi
Genres
Instruments
Years active 1916–1934
Labels

Charley Patton (died April 28, 1934), also known as Charlie Patton, was an American Delta blues musician. Considered by many to be the "Father of the Delta Blues", he created an enduring body of American music and inspired most Delta blues musicians. The musicologist Robert Palmer considered him one of the most important American musicians of the twentieth century.

Patton (who was well educated by the standards of his time) spelled his name "Charlie",[citation needed] but many sources, including record labels and his gravestone, use the spelling "Charley."[1]

Biography[edit]

Patton was born in Hinds County, Mississippi, near the town of Edwards, and lived most of his life in Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta. Most sources say he was born in April 1891, but the years 1881, 1885 and 1887 have also been suggested.[2] Patton's parentage and race also are uncertain. His parents were Bill and Annie Patton, but locally he was regarded as having been fathered by former slave Henderson Chatmon, several of whose children became popular Delta musicians, as solo performers and as members of groups such as the Mississippi Sheiks.[3] Biographer John Fahey described Patton as having "light skin and Caucasian features."[4] Patton was considered African-American, but because of his light complexion there has been speculation that he was Mexican or Cherokee (a theory endorsed by Howlin' Wolf). It is now generally agreed that Patton was of mixed heritage, with white, black, and Cherokee ancestors (one of his grandmothers was Cherokee).[5] In "Down the Dirt Road Blues", Patton sang of having gone to "the Nation" and "the Territo'", referring to the Cherokee Nation's portion of the Indian Territory (which became part of the state of Oklahoma in 1907), where a number of Black Indians tried unsuccessfully to claim a place on the tribal rolls and thereby obtain land.

In 1897, his family moved 100 miles (160 km) north to the 10,000-acre (40 km2) Dockery Plantation, a cotton farm and sawmill near Ruleville, Mississippi.[6] There, Patton developed his musical style, influenced by Henry Sloan, who had a new, unusual style of playing music, which is now considered an early form of the blues.[7] Patton performed at Dockery and nearby plantations and began an association with Willie Brown.[8] Tommy Johnson, Fiddlin' Joe Martin, Robert Johnson, and Howlin' Wolf also lived and played in the area and Patton served as a mentor to the younger performers.[9] Robert Palmer described Patton as a "jack-of all-trades bluesman", who played "deep blues, white hillbilly songs, nineteenth-century ballads, and other varieties of black and white country dance music with equal facility".[10] He was popular across the southern United States and performed annually in Chicago; in 1934, he performed in New York City. Unlike most blues musicians of his time, who were often itinerant performers, Patton played scheduled engagements at plantations and taverns. He gained popularity for his showmanship, sometimes playing with the guitar down on his knees, behind his head, or behind his back. Patton was a small man, about 5 feet 5 inches tall,[11] but his gravelly voice was reputed to have been loud enough to carry 500 yards without amplification. He influenced the singing style of his young friend Chester Burnett, who went on to gain fame in Chicago as Howlin' Wolf.[citation needed]

Patton settled in Holly Ridge, Mississippi, with his common-law wife and recording partner, Bertha Lee, in 1933. He died on the Heathman-Dedham plantation, near Indianola, on April 28, 1934, and is buried in Holly Ridge (both towns are located in Sunflower County). His death certificate states that he died of a mitral valve disorder.[12] The death certificate does not mention Bertha Lee; the only informant listed is one Willie Calvin. Patton's death was not reported in the newspapers.[13]

A memorial headstone was erected on Patton's grave (the location of which was identified by the cemetery caretaker, C. Howard, who claimed to have been present at the burial), paid for by musician John Fogerty through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund in July 1990. The spelling of Patton's name was dictated by Jim O'Neal, who also composed the epitaph.[citation needed]

Recognitions[edit]

Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton, a boxed set collecting Patton's recorded works, was released in 2001. It also features recordings by many of his friends and associates. The set won three Grammy Awards in 2003, for Best Historical Album, Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, and Best Album Notes.[14] Another collection of Patton recordings, The Definitive Charley Patton, was released by Catfish Records in 2001.[15]

Patton's song "Pony Blues" (1929) was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2006.[16] The board annually selects recordings that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

In 2013, Jack White's Third Man Records teamed up with Document Records to reissue The Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order of Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell and the Mississippi Sheiks.[citation needed]

Historical marker[edit]

The Mississippi Blues Trail placed its first historical marker on Patton's grave in Holly Ridge, Mississippi, in recognition of his legendary status as a bluesman and his importance in the development of the blues in Mississippi.[17] It placed another historic marker at the site where the Peavine Railroad intersects Highway 446 in Boyle, Mississippi, designating it as a second site related to Patton on the Mississippi Blues Trail. The marker commemorates the lyrics of Patton's "Peavine Blues", which refer to the branch of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad which ran south from Dockery Plantation to Boyle. The marker notes that riding on the railroad was a common theme of blues songs and was seen as a metaphor for travel and escape.[18]

Tributes[edit]

  • Canned Heat (with Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson) covered Patton's songs "Pony Blues", "Shake It and Break It" and "Yellow Bee".
  • Bob Dylan dedicated "High Water (For Charley Patton)", on his 2001 album "Love and Theft", to Patton.
  • The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, American country blues recording and touring artists, produced a tribute recording, Peyton on Patton, released on July 19, 2011. The album entered the Billboard blues album chart at number 7.
  • French singer-songwriter Francis Cabrel refers to Patton in the song "Cent Ans de Plus" on his 1999 album Hors-Saison.
  • The indie rock band Gomez recorded "Charley Patton Songs" for their 2006 album How We Operate.
  • A picture of Patton in the recording studio used for the White Stripes' album Icky Thump can be seen in the background of the short demo video on their website.
  • Jule Brown[19] recorded an updated arrangement of Patton's "Green River Blues" on their 2006 release Smoke and Mirrors.
  • Robert Crumb narrated Patton's life in a comic book.[20]
  • The 1980s New York punk/blues band Hi Sheriffs of Blue[21] (which included visual artists Mark Dagley, George Condo and Elliott Sharp) was named after the Patton song "High Sheriff Blues".
  • Alvin Youngblood Hart covered Patton's songs "Pony Blues" and "Tom Rushen Blues" on Big Mama's Door and Down in the Alley, respectively.
  • Corey Harris covered "Pony Blues" on his debut album, Between Midnight and Day.
  • Paul Geremia covered "Pony Blues" and "Shake It and Break It" on Love, Murder & Mosquitos and Self Portrait in Blues, respectively.
  • Paul Rishell covered Patton's songs "Some of These Days" and "Down the Dirt Road Blues" on Swear to Tell the Truth and Talking Guitar, respectively.
  • Paul Rishell and Annie Raines covered Patton's songs "Some of These Days" and "I'm Going Home" on their album Goin' Home.
  • Rory Block covered Patton's song "Elder Green Is Gone" on her 1983 album Blue Horizon.

Discography[edit]

Paramount Recordings[edit]

Recording Date Recording Location Matrix Song Paramount Issue # Release Date
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15216 "Pony Blues" 12792-A 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15211 "Mississippi Boweavil Blues" 12805-B 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15214 "Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues" 12805-A 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15215 "Down the Dirt the Road Blues" 12854-A 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15217 "Banty Rooster Blues" 12792-B 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15221 "Pea Vine Blues" 12877-A 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15220 "It Won't Be Long" 12854-B 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15222 "Tom Rushen Blues" 12877-B 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15223 "A Spoonful Blues" 12869-B 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15224 "Shake It and Break It (But Don't Let It Fall Mama)" 12869-A 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15225 "Prayer of Death, Part 1 12799-A 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15225A "Prayer of Death, Part 2" 12799-B 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15226 "Lord, I'm Discouraged" 12883-A 1929
June 14, 1929 Richmond, Indiana G15227 "I'm Going Home" 12883-B 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0038=1 "Elder Green Blues" 12972-A 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0041 "Mean Black Cat Blues" 12943-A 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0050 "Heart Like Railroad Steel" 12953-B 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0047 "Hammer Blues" 12998-A 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0051 "Some Happy Day" 13031-A 1930
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0049 "When Your Way Gets Dark" 12998-B 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0040 "Devil Sent the Rain" 13040-B 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0052 "You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die" 13031-B 1930
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0039 "Circle Round the Moon" 13040-A 1930
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0048 "Magnolia Blues" 12943-B 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0043 "Some Of These Days, I'll Be Gone" 13110-B 1930
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0077 "Mean Black Moan" 12953-A 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0044=3 "Green River Blues" 12972-A 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0061 "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker" 12986-A 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0037=1 "Going Move to Alabama" 13014-B 1930
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0059 "High Water Everywhere, Part 1" 12909-A 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0060 "High Water Everywhere, Part 2" 12909-B 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0062=2 "I Shall Not Be Moved" 12986-B 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0064=1 "Runnin' Wild Blues" 12924-B 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0057 "Jim Lee Blues, Part 1" 13080-A 1930
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0058 "Jim Lee Blues, Part 2" 13133-B 1930
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0042=1 "Frankie and Albert" 13110-A 1930
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0067 "Joe Kirby" 13133-A 1930
May 28, 1930 Grafton, Wisconsin L0432=1 "Moon Going Down" 13014-A 1930
May 28, 1930 Grafton, Wisconsin L0433 "Bird Nest Bound" 13070-A 1930
May 28, 1930 Grafton, Wisconsin L0431 "Some Summer Day" 13080-B 1930
May 28, 1930 Grafton, Wisconsin L0429 "Dry Well Blues" 13070-B 1930

Henry "Son" Sims on fiddle, Patton with vocals and guitar

Willie Brown on accompanying guitar

1929 Henry "Son" Sims Vocals, Patton accompanying guitar
Recording Date Recording Location Matrix Song Paramount Issue # Release Date
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0046 "Come Back Corrinna" 12912-A 1929
November 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0045 "Farrell Blues" 12912-B 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0066 "Be True, Be True Blues" 12940-A 1929
December 1929 Grafton, Wisconsin L0065 "Tell Me Man Blues" 12940-B 1929

Vocalion Recordings[edit]

Recording Date Recording Location Matrix Song Paramount Issue # Release Date
January 30, 1934 New York City 14723=1 "Jersey Bull Blues" 02782-A 1934
January 30, 1934 New York City 14725=1 "High Sherriff Blues" 02680-A 1934
January 30, 1934 New York City 14727=1 "Stone Pony Blues" 02680-B 1934
January 31, 1934 New York City 14739=1 "34 Blues" 02651-B 1934
January 31, 1934 New York City 14746 "Love My Stuff" 02782-B 1934
January 31, 1934 New York City 14747 "Revenue Man Blues" 02931-A 1934
February 1, 1934 New York City 14749 "Oh Death" 02904-A 1934
February 1, 1934 New York City 14749 "Troubled 'Bout My Mother" 02904-B 1934
February 1, 1934 New York City 14757 "Poor Me" 02651-A 1934
February 1, 1934 New York City 14758 "Hang It On the Wall" 02931-B 1934

Vocal duet with Bertha Lee

1934 Bertha Lee Vocals, Patton accompanying guitar
Recording Date Recording Location Matrix Song Paramount Issue # Release Date
January 31, 1934 New York City 14735=1 "Yellow Bee" 02650-A 1934
January 31, 1934 New York City 14736=1 "Mind Reader Blues" 02650-B 1934

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Charley Patton (1891–1934) – Find a Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  2. ^ Charley Patton Birthplace, Mississippi Blues Foundation.
  3. ^ Fahey (1970), p. 18.
  4. ^ Fahey (1970), p. 26.
  5. ^ [1] Archived July 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Palmer 1981, p. 50.
  7. ^ Palmer 1981, pp. 51–52.
  8. ^ Palmer 1981, p. 58.
  9. ^ Palmer 1981, pp. 59, 61.
  10. ^ Palmer (1981), p. 133.
  11. ^ Wardlow (1998), p. 30.
  12. ^ Wardlow (1998), p. 98.
  13. ^ Palmer (1981), p. 89.
  14. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 159. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  15. ^ "The Definitive Charley Patton: Releases". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  16. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2006: National Recording Preservation Board (Library of Congress)". Loc.gov. May 13, 2011. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  17. ^ "Haley Barbour Unveils First Marker of Mississippi Blues Trail". Jazz News. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  18. ^ "Mississippi Blues Trail Markers to Be Unveiled in Bolivar County" (PDF). Mississippi Development Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 7, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  19. ^ "トータルビューティーワーク買いました!!". Julebrown.org. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  20. ^ "Charlie Patton by R.Crumb". Celticguitarmusic.com. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  21. ^ "Hi Sheriffs of Blue". Hi Sheriffs of Blue. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]