Charley Patton was a Black Indian musician who was a pioneer in blues music. Patton is also considered the Father of Delta Blues, a title given to several others.
He was born in Hinds County, Mississippi sometime between 1881 and 1891. Just as his date of birth is vague, so is his race. He was raised by Bill and Annie Patton but it’s said that his father was possibly former slave Henderson Chatmon. This would make him the possible half-brother of Mississippi Sheiks guitarists and singer Sam Chatmon.
Patton was said to be light skinned and had either White, Native American or Latino features. The general consensus is that Charley Patton is mixed—Black, White, and Cherokee. His family was based in Mississippi his entire life and it would be here where Patton learned the blues. His main instruction would come from Henry Sloan. A journeyman musician, Sloan was a mysterious musician who was said to play a kind of “proto-blues.”
His early career would see him run in similar circles other future blues legends and Delta blues pioneers such as Robert Johnson, Son House, and Willie Brown. Much like any musician of this period, he had general area he would play throughout the South with a yearly showcase in Chicago. Patton was also a pioneer in the showmanship aspect of blues.
It was said he would play a variety of styles and genres such as country, blues, and folk songs making him an in-demand musician. Most interesting is that he kept a particular schedule of shows in a time when his fellow blues musicians simply moved from town to town.
Charley Patton played well into the early 1930s and recorded between 1929 and 1930. In 1933, he moved to Holly Ridge, Mississippi and lived there with his wife and was recording partner Bertha Lee Pate. Patton would pass a year later on April 28, 1934, of heart complications.
One of his significant contributions to music was “Pony Blues.” The song was recorded on June 14, 1929, and inducted into the Library of Congress in 2006.
-Talkin’ Patton (documentary short): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9T_dxiTD24
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