Charley Patton (born Charlie Patton in Edwards, Mississippi, May 1, 1891, died in Indianola, Mississippi, April 28, 1934) was a Blues musician, singer and guitarist. He was known as the "Father Of The Delta Blues" and therefore one of the most significant figures of American popular music. Charley Patton was one of the first mainstream stars of the Delta blues genre. Patton, who was born in Hinds County, Mississippi near Edwards or Bolton, lived most of his life in Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta.
He was known as the "Father Of The Delta Blues" and therefore one of the most significant figures of American popular music.
Charley Patton was one of the first mainstream stars of the Delta blues genre. Patton, who was born in Hinds County, Mississippi near Edwards or Bolton, lived most of his life in Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta. He was extremely popular across the U.S. South, and (in contrast to the itinerant wandering of most blues musicians of his time) was invited to perform at plantations and taverns.
He is credited with creating an enduring body of American music and personally inspiring just about every Delta blues man (Robert Palmer, 1995). Palmer considers him among the most important musicians that America produced in the twentieth century. Long before Jimi Hendrix he was the entertainer's entertainer with dazzling showmanship, often playing guitar on his knees and behind his head, as well as behind his back.
Patton was born in Southern Mississippi, near Edwards in 1891 but there is still some debate about this. In 1900, however, his family moved 100 miles north to the legendary 10,000 Acre 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 his first guitar.
At Dockery, Charlie fell under the spell of Henry Sloan who had an unusual new style of playing music which we would recognize today as very early blues.
Charlie followed Henry Sloan around like a puppy and by the time he was about 19 in 1910 he was an accomplished performer and composer, having already composed his theme song "Pony Blues".
Although Patton was a small man at about 5 foot 5 and 135 pounds, the sound of his whiskey- and cigarette-scarred voice was rumored to have carried for over 500 yards without amplification. This gritty voice was a major influence in the singing style of one of his students, Howlin' Wolf.
It is of minor debate which race Charley Patton was. Though he was most likely African-American like most of his contemporaries in the blues field, because of his light complexion there have been rumors that he was Mexican, full-blood Cherokee, half Irish (Howlin' Wolf himself endorsed this theory) and many others.
Patton settled in Holly Ridge, Mississippi with his common-law wife and recording partner Bertha Lee in 1933.
Patton 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).