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Charlie Patton biography



Charlie Patton, better known as Charley Patton (Between April 1887 & 1891 – April 28, 1934) is best known as an American Delta blues musician. He is considered by many to be the Father of the Delta Blues and therefore one of the oldest known figures of American popular music. He is credited with creating an enduring body of American music and personally inspiring just about every Delta blues man (Palmer, 1995). Musicologist Robert Palmer considers him among the most important musicians that America produced in the twentieth century. Many sources, including musical releases and his gravestone, spell his name “Charley” even though the musician himself spelled his name Charlie. Charlie Patton was one of the first mainstream stars of the Delta blues genre. Patton, who was born in Hinds County, Mississippi near Edwards, lived most of his life in Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta. Most sources say he was born in 1891, but there is some debate about this, and the years 1887 and 1894 have also been suggested. In 1900, his family moved 100 miles (160 km) north to the legendary 10,000-acre (40 km2) Dockery Plantation sawmill and cotton farm near Ruleville, Mississippi. It was here that both John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf fell under the Patton spell. It was also here that Robert Johnson played and was given his first guitar. At Dockery, Charlie fell under the tutelage of Henry Sloan, who had a new, unusual style of playing music which today would be considered very early blues. Charlie followed Henry Sloan around, and, by the time he was about 19, had become an accomplished performer and songwriter in his own right, having already composed Pony Blues, a seminal song of the era. Robert Palmer describes 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. He was extremely popular across the Southern United States, and — in contrast to the itinerant wandering of most blues musicians of his time — played scheduled engagements at plantations and taverns. Long before Jimi Hendrix impressed audiences with flashy guitar playing, Patton gained notoriety for his showmanship, often playing with the guitar down on his knees, behind his head, or behind his back. Although Patton was a small man at about 5 foot 5 and 135 pounds, his gravelly voice was rumored to have been loud enough to carry 500 yards without amplification. Patton's gritty bellowing was a major influence on the singing style of his young friend Chester Burnett, who went on to gain fame in Chicago as Howlin' Wolf. 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 from heart disease on April 28, 1934 and is buried in Holly Ridge (both towns are located in Sunflower County). 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 Patton epitaph. Only one photograph of Charlie Patton is known to exist, although its authenticity is disputed.[citation needed] The photograph is owned by a collector, John Tefteller. Patton's race is the subject of minor debate. Though he was considered African-American, because of his light complexion there have been rumors that he was Mexican, or possibly a full-blood Cherokee, a theory endorsed by Howlin' Wolf. In actuality, Patton was a mix of white, black, and Cherokee (one of his grandmothers was a full-blooded Cherokee). Patton himself sang in Down the Dirt Road Blues of having gone to the Nation and the Territo' -- meaning the Cherokee Nation 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. Patton's death certificate states that he died in a house approximately twenty miles from Dockery's Plantation in Indianola, Mississippi. Bertha Lee is not mentioned on the certificate, the only informant listed being one Willie Calvin. His death was not reported in the newspapers. [edit] RecognitionsScreamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton is a boxed set collecting Charley Patton's recorded works. It also featuring 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. Another collection of Patton recordings, released under Catfish Records is titled The Definitive Charley Patton. Charley Patton's song Pony Blues (1929) was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2006. The board selects songs in an annual basis that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. Charlie Patton time line 1891 Patton born in Hinds County, Mississippi near Edwards or Bolton. 1895 (Age 4) The Patton family moves near Edwards Depot. 1900 (Age 9) The Patton family moves to the Dockery Plantation in Sunflower County, Mississippi, where Charlie meets his musical influence Henry Sloan. 1905–1907 (Ages 14–16) Gets guitar lessons from Earl Harris of Cleveland, and learns You Take My Woman and Maggie. 1908 (Age 17) Lives with Millie Barnes, and has a baby girl named Willie Mae. 1910 (Age 19) Writes songs including Pony Blues, Banty Rooster Blues, Mississippi BoWeavil, and Down The Dirt Road. 1916 (Age 25) Offered a position in W.C. Handy's band. 1922 (Age 31) Marries Mandy France on Oss Pepper's plantation. 1926 (Age 35) Willie Brown becomes his duet partner. 1929 (Age 38) Records fourteen titles for Paramount Records at Richmond, Indiana. 1929 (Age 38) In July, Paramount releases Pony Blues, Patton's first issued recording, which sells well. 1929 (Age 38) Records again for Paramount, this time in Grafton, Wisconsin, with Henry Son Sims on fiddle. 1930 (Age 39) Third Paramount recording session, again in Grafton, Wisconsin, and accompanied by Son House and Willie Brown on guitar, and Louise Johnson on piano. 1932 (Age 41) Final Paramount recording is released. 1932 (Age 41) Marries Bertha Lee, an overseer's daughter, in Morgan City, Mississippi. 1933 (Age 42) Almost killed when his throat is slit near Holly Ridge, Mississippi. 1934 (Age 42) Records twenty-six titles, including Oh Death, for the American Recording Company in New York City between January 30 and February 1. 1934 (Age 42) Dies of heart failure on the Heathman-Dedham plantation in Mississippi. Discography 1929, RichmondMississippi Boweavil Blues Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues Down The Dirt Road Blues Pony Blues Banty Rooster Blues Pea Vine Blues It Won't Be Long Tom Rushen Blues A Spoonful Blues Shake It And Break It (But Don't Let It Fall Mama) Prayer Of Death Part 1 & 2 Lord I'm Discouraged I'm Goin' Home 1929, GraftonGoing To Move To Alabama Elder Greene Blues Circle Round The Moon Devil Sent The Rain Blues Mean Black Cat Blues Frankie And Albert Some These Days I'll Be Gone Green River Blues Hammer Blues Magnolia Blues When Your Way Gets Dark Heart Like Railroad Steel Some Happy Day You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die Jim Lee Blues Part 1 Jim Lee Blues Part 2 High Water Everywhere Part 1 High Water Everywhere Part 2 Jesus Is A Dying-Bed Maker I Shall Not Be Moved Rattlesnake Blues Running Wild Blues Joe Kirby Mean Black Moan Farrell Blues Come Back Corrina Tell Me Man Blues Be True Be True Blues [edit] 1930, GraftonDry Well Blues Some Summer Day Moon Going Down Bird Nest Bound [edit] 1934, New York CityJersey Bull Blues High Sheriff Blues Stone Pony Blues 34 Blues Love My Stuff Revenue Man Blues Oh Death Troubled 'Bout My Mother Poor Me Hang It On The Wall Yellow Bee Mind Reader Blues Tributes Bob Dylan dedicated his song High Water (For Charley Patton), on his 2001 album Love and Theft, to Patton. French singer-songwriter Francis Cabrel refers to Charley Patton in the song Cent Ans de Plus on the 1999 album Hors-Saison. Indie rock band Gomez recorded a song on their 2006 release How We Operate, entitled Charley Patton Songs. There is a picture of Charlie Patton in the recording studio for The White Stripes' Icky Thump album. It can be seen in the background of the short demo video on their website. Jule Brown 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 [edit] Historic markerThe Mississippi Blues Trail placed its first historic marker on Charlie 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. It placed another historic marker at the site where the Peavine Railroad intersects with Highway 446 in Boyle, Mississippi, designating it as a second site related to Patton on the Mississippi Blues Trail. The marker commemorates the original lyrics of Patton's Peavine Blues which describes the railway branch of Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad which ran south from Dockery Plantation to Boyle. The marker emphasizes that a common theme of blues songs was riding on the railroad which was seen as a metaphor for travel and escape.