The Day Charley Patton Changed the Blues
Patton’s first recording
Blues historian Rick Kennedy
Born between Bolton and Edwards, Mississippi, in April 1891, Patton was of mixed black, white and native American ancestry.
In the early 1900s his family moved to the Dockery plantation. Patton’s travels took him from Louisiana to New York, but he spent most of his time moving from plantation to plantation, entertaining fieldhands at jukehouse dances and country stores, acquiring numerous wives and girlfriends along the way. The emotional sway he held over his audiences caused him to be tossed off of more than one plantation, because workers would leave crops unattended to listen to him play.
Although Patton was roughly five feet, five inches tall and only weighed 135 pounds, his gravelly, high-energy singing style made him sound like a man twice his size. An accomplished and inventive guitarist and lyricist, he was a flamboyant showman as well, spinning his guitar, playing it behind his head and slapping it for rhythmic effect. He also preached in local churches, played for the deacons of New Jerusalem M.B. Church here and recorded religious songs, folk ballads, dance tunes, and pop songs.
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