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 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, 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.
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.
Screamin' 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, más conocido como Charley Patton (1 de mayo de 1891 - 28 de abril de 1934) fue un músico estadounidense de delta blues. Es considerado como "El padre del delta blues" y uno de los artistas más antiguos de la música popular estadounidense. En algunas fuentes, incluyendo varios de sus discos y su propia tumba, aparece incorrectamente nombrado con el nombre de Charley, a pesar de que el músico utilizó siempre el nombre de Charlie.
Charlie Patton fue uno de los primeros artistas conocidos del género musical delta blues; nació en Hinds County, Misisipi, pasando la mayor parte de su vida en Sunflower County, localidad situada en el Delta del Misisipi. Nació en 1891, aunque hay dudas acerca de este dato. En 1900, su familia se trasladó al norte de la legendaria plantación de algodón de Dockery Plantation, lugar en el que también habitaron músicos como John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf y Robert Johnson.
En Dockery, Charlie conoció a Henry Sloan, el cual interpretaba música con un estilo diferente al habitual en aquel periodo, estilo que podría reconocerse hoy en día como blues temprano. Charlie pasó un tiempo con Henry Sloan hasta convertirse en compositor e intérprete de blues, a los 19 años, con su primera composición "Pony Blues".
Fue muy popular a lo largo de todo el territorio de Estados Unidos recibiendo invitaciones para interpretar música en plantaciones y tabernas; en dichas interpretaciones, solía mezclar elementos de espectáculo, tocando con la guitarra en sus rodillas y detrás del cuello, al igual que harían, años más tarde, artistas como Jimi Hendrix. A pesar de la baja estatura de Patton, se rumoreaba que el sonido de su voz (dañada por el whisky y el tabaco) podía escucharse a cientos de metros de distancia sin ningún tipo de amplificación; precisamente, su voz profunda y grave influenció la forma de cantar de uno de sus alumnos, Howlin' Wolf. Otro protegido suyo, también muy influenciado por su estilo, fue un joven Big Joe Williams, al que apodó Poor Joe.
En 1933, Patton se trasladó con su esposa y su socio musical Bertha Lee a Holly Ridge, Misisipi. Falleció el 28 de abril de 1934, debido a una cardiopatía, en la plantación Heathman-Dedham, cercana a Indianola, Misisipi, siendo enterrado en Holly Ridge.
Aparentemente, sólo existe una fotografía de Charlie Patton, aunque se discute su autenticidad; dicha fotografía pertenece al coleccionista John Tefteller.
Existe, así mismo, un debate acerca de cual era la raza de Charlie Patton: a pesar de que era afroamericano, como todos los artistas de blues de aquel periodo, debido a su complexión delgada se ha rumoreado que podría haber sido, entre otras teorías, mexicano o cheroqui.