Charley Patton Profile:
Born: 1887 in Edwards MS
Died: April 28, 1934 in Indianola MS
The biggest star of the 1920s Delta firmament, Charley Patton was the region’s E-Ticket attraction. A charismatic performer with a flash style, his talented fretwork and flamboyant showmanship inspired a legion of bluesmen and rockers, from Son House and Robert Johnson, to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Patton lived a high-flying lifestyle full of liquor and women, and his performances at house parties, juke joints, and plantation dances became the stuff of legend. His loud voice, coupled with a rhythmic and percussive guitar style, was both groundbreaking and designed to entertain a raucous audience.
The Blues Musician
Although the date of Charley Patton's birth varies from 1881 to 1891, depending on which source you use, his popularity as a live performer during the 1920s and '30s is well-documented. Patton's repertoire included ragtime, spirituals, popular ballads, and classic blues, and his arrival on a Mississippi plantation would often cause workers to leave the fields to catch a glimpse of the Delta's first true musical celebrity.
Patton was the stereotype of the blues musician: itinerant, always looking for a good time, with a great thirst for whiskey and women. Still, beyond the tales of Patton's rock star antics, it was his performances that fueled the legend. Onstage, he would bang away at his guitar, dancing and stomping his feet, play the guitar behind his neck and sing in different voices - an explosive style that would leave its mark on followers like Son House, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.
Patton began recording late in his career, in 1929, but made up for lost time by laying down some 60 songs in less than five years, including his best-selling first single "Pony Blues." Signed to Paramount Records, Patton would become the label's most popular artist. Unfortunately, although Patton's 78s sold in the thousands (blockbuster by the standards of the day), relatively few are known to exist today, and those that do are worth a small fortune. Sadly, none of Patton's master recordings are known to have survived.
Recommended Albums: Although Patton's currently available recordings were copied from inferior-quality 78s, King of the Delta Blues offers beginners a solid collection of two-dozen tracks of varying sound quality.