Sam Chatmon

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Sam Chatmon at the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival, Greenville, MS

Sam Chatmon (January 10, 1897 – February 2, 1983) was a Delta blues guitarist and singer. He was a member of the Mississippi Sheiks and may have been Charlie Patton's half brother.

Life and career[edit]

Chatmon was born in Bolton, Mississippi. Chatmon's family was well known in Mississippi for their musical talents; Chatmon was a member of the family's string band when he was young. He performed on a regular basis for white audiences in the 1900s.

The Chatmon band played rags, ballads, and popular dance tunes. Two of Sam's brothers, fiddler Lonnie Chatmon and guitarist Bo Carter, performed with guitarist Walter Vinson as the Mississippi Sheiks.

Chatmon played the banjo, mandolin, and harmonica in addition to the guitar. He performed at parties and on street corners throughout Mississippi for small pay and tips. In the 1930s he recorded both with the Sheiks, as well as with sibling Lonnie as the Chatman Brothers.

Chatmon moved to Hollandale, Mississippi in the early 1940s and worked on plantations in Hollandale. He was re-discovered in 1960 and started a new chapter of his career as folk-blues artist. In the same year Chatmon recorded for the Arhoolie record label. He toured extensively during the 1960s and 1970s. While in California in 1970 he got together and made several recordings with Sue Draheim, Kenny Hall, Ed Littlefield, Lou Curtiss, Kathy Hall, Will Scarlett and others at Sweet's Mill Music Camp, forming a group he called "The California Sheiks".[1] He played many of the largest and best-known folk festivals, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. in 1972, the Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto in 1974, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1976.

During an interview Chatmon explained that he started playing the guitar with 3 years of age, by laying it flat on the floor and crawling under it.[2]

A headstone memorial to Chatmon with the inscription "Sitting on top of the World" was paid for by Bonnie Raitt through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund and placed in Sanders Memorial Cemetery, Hollandale, Mississippi on March 14, 1998 at a large ceremomy held at the Hollandale Municipal Building, celebrated by the Mayor and members of the City Council of Hollandale as well as over 100 attendees.



Studio albums[edit]

  • Sam Chatmon: The Mississippi Sheik (Blue Goose, 197?)
  • Hollandale Blues (Albatros, 1977)
  • Sam Chatmon's Advice (Rounder, 1979)
  • Sam Chatmon & His Barbecue Boys (Flying Fish, 1981)


  • Sam Chatmon 1970-1974 (Flyright, 1999)
  • Field Recordings from Hollandale, Mississippi (1976-1982) (Mbirafon, 2009)


External links[edit]