Charlie Patton

Considered by some to be the "Father of the Delta Blues," Charlie Patton was the first star of the Delta country blues. His exact birth date is unknown, but he was born between 1887 and 1891 in Hinds County, near Edwards, Mississippi. In 1900, his family moved to Dockery Plantation in Sunflower County. The county was also home to B.B. King and C.L. Franklin, father of Aretha Franklin. There, he was influenced musically by Henry Sloan, whose music would today be considered a very early form of blues. By age nineteen, Patton had written "Pony Blues," "Banty Rooster Blues," "Mississippi BoWeavil," and "Down The Dirt Road.".

Rather than hobo from town to town as did many Delta bluesmen, Patton was called upon to play at plantations, fish fries and juke joints in pre-arranged gigs. He was the image of the '20s hip bluesman with an expensive looking guitar, sharp clothes and a traveling case. 

Only five foot five inches and 135 pounds, Patton had a gravelly voice. Many bluesmen of the area were surprised when they met him, stating  that, on his records, he sounded as if he were a man twice his size. His vocal style would become one of the hallmarks of one of his students, the young Chester Burnett, later to gain fame as Howlin' Wolf. The driving beat of his guitar style would later engender the boogie style of John Lee Hooker. Patton was one of the first blues artists to play with a strong, syncopated rhythm, popping his bass strings for effect many decades before the technique was popularized by modern "funk" artists.

First recording for the Paramount label in 1929, Patton soon became the largest selling and most prolific blues artist. He recorded over 60 tracks and his final session was only months before his death in 1934. He was instrumental in arranging recording sessions for Willie Brown and Son House. When Paramount went out of business, Patton's masters were sold as scrap metal, some even used to line chicken coops. Had Patton been an unknown, that act might have been forgivable. However, Patton was one of the most well known blues artists of his day. All that is left of his recordings are the old 78s themselves, scratched and worn, making sound restoration all but impossible even with modern techniques. 

Charlie Patton died of heart failure at 350 Heathman Street in Indianola, Mississippi on April 28, 1934.

Music: Charley Patton, The Devil Sent the Rain Blues
The funds for this tombstone were provided by John Fogerty. 
Although the first name is spelled "Charley" here, Patton was known to spell it "Charlie." Photo taken about 2005.
Another view taken in 2015