Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Charley Patton


Charley Patton Charley Patton, Courtesy of American Music Archives

Major Works

  • When Your Way Gets Dark
  • Revenue Man Blues -- Hear the sound clip!
  • Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues
  • Pony Blues
  • Banty Rooster Blues
  • Spoonful Blues
  • High Sheriff Blues
  • Shake It And Break It
  • Mississippi Bo Weevil Blues -- Hear the sound clip!
  • Down The Dirt Road
  • Bird Nest Bound
  • Poor Me
  • Pea Vine Blues
  • Hammer Blues
  • Moon Goin' Down
  • Green River Blues

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Charley Patton: A Biography
By Amanda Boyd (SHS)

Photo Courtesy of American Music Archives Charley Patton is considered one of the earliest and best known blues singers.  He was born on May 1, 1891, in Hinds County near Edwards or Bolton, Mississippi.  His parents were Bill and Annie Patton.  When Patton was nine years old, his family moved to Dockery's plantation.  It was at this time that Patton developed a love for music.  He took up the guitar in his early teenage years (Charley Patton).  Soon after, Patton began playing blues.  He found he could be free while singing this music.  Patton became a traveling musician, making a minimal earning.  He traveled along the Mississippi River, playing at different towns.  As Patton gained popularity, he began traveling to Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Illinois (The Blues Begin).

When Patton was growing up, he was determined to leave the racism of the South.  His lyrics described some of the themes of his life.  He was tired of living a sharecropper's lifestyle.  Patton also told about the brutal and harsh conditions that African Americans lived under in the South.  The song "Down the Dirt Road Blues" shows just how Patton felt about changing his life  (The Blues Begin).
                    I'm going away to a world unknown.
                    I'm going away to a world unknown.
                    I'm worried now, but I won't be worried long...

                    Every day seem like murder here.
                    Every day seem like murder here.
                    I'm gonna leave tomorrow.  I know you don't
                    bit more care  (The Blues Begin).

Patton sang with a hoarse and loud tone.  This sometimes made his singing incomprehensible.  Some of the musicians that Patton affected the most were Tommy Johnson, Bukka White, Big Joe Williams, Howlin' Wolf, and his regular partner Willie Brown  (The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music).

Amanda Boyd, SHS researcherIn Patton's short lifetime, he was married eight times.  He was sometimes a difficult man to get along with.  Patton was an alcoholic and had problems controlling his temper  (King of the Delta Blues).

Charley Patton died of heart failure on April 28, 1934.  He died near Indianola, Mississippi, on the Heathman-Dedham plantation  (King of the Delta Blues).  He is known as the first great Delta blues man, and his influence on those who followed is immense.

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Timeline

  • 1891 - Charley Patton was born in Hinds County, Mississippi near Edwards or Bolton.
  • 1895 - The Patton family moves near Edwards Depot.
  • 1900 - Moves to Dockery's plantation in Sunflower County, Mississippi
  • 1905/1907 - He gets guitar lessons from Earl Harris of Cleveland, and learns You Take My Woman and Maggie
  • 1908 - Lives with Millie Barnes, and has a baby girl named Willie Mae
  • 1910 - Some of his songs include:  Pony Blues, Banty Rooster Blues, Mississippi Bo Weevil, and Down The Dirt Road
  • 1916 - Offered a position in W.C. Handy's band
  • 1922 - Marries Mandy France on Oss Pepper's plantation
  • 1926 - Willie Brown becomes his duet partner
  • 1929 - Records fourteen titles for Paramount Records at Richmond, Indiana
  • 1932 - Final Paramount recording is released
  • 1932 - Marries an overseer's daughter in Morgan City, Mississippi
  • 1933 - Almost killed when his throat is slit near Holly Ridge
  • 1934   (January 30 - February 1) - Records twenty-six titles for ARC in New York
  • 1934 - Dies of heart failure on the Heathman-Dedham plantation 

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Related Websites

This is the American Music Archives web page dedicated to Charley Patton.  It has information on Patton's early years.
This is the Blue Flame Cafe web page.  It has a biography on Charley Patton.
This web page has a picture of Charley Patton playing the guitar.
This web page has extensive sound clips, numerous lyrics, and a biography of Charley Patton.

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Bibliography

American Music Archives.  [Online]  http://www.eyeneer.com/America/Genre/Profiles/BLUES/patton.html
April 14, 1999.

The Blues Begin.  "Charley Patton" 28.

The Blue Flame Cafe.  [Online]  http://www.blueflamecafe.com/default.htm, April 25, 1999.

Blues man Harry.  Charley Patton.  [Online] Available
     http://tinpan.fortunecity.com/kowalski/112/artistswithsongs/charley_patton_1.htm, May 1, 1999.

Calt, Stephen, and Gayle Wardlow.  King of the Delta Blues:  The Life and Music of Charlie Patton.  Newton, New Jersey:  Rock Chapel Press, 1988.

Harpe, Neil.  Charlie Patton.  [Online]  http://www.toad.net/~harpe/blues/patton.html, May 5, 1999.

Larkin, Colin.  "Patton, Charley." The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. New York: Stockton Press, 1995.  3201.

Mathus, Jimbo.  "Rosetta and Me."  The Oxford American.  46.

Mississippi Boweevil Blues.  [Online Sound]
http://www.eyeneer.com/America/Genre/Profiles/BLUES/patton.html, April 14, 1999.

Revenue Man Blues.  [Online Sound]  http://www.blueflamecafe.com/default.htm, April 25, 1999. 

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Last updated in 1999
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