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Name: Pace Jubilee Singers
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Name: Frank Palmes
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Name: Blind Benny Paris and Wife
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Name: Lydia Parrish
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Name: Charlie Patton (how he spelled his own name, and as written on his death certificate)
Aka: Charley Patton (common usage and on his gravestone),
The Masked Marvel, Elder J.J. Hadley
Born: 28th April 1891, Near Edwards, Hinds County, MS
Died: 28th April 1934, Near Indianola, Sunflower County, MS
Biography Synopsis:

On June 14, 1929, Charley Patton descended into Richmond’s “Starr Valley” and stepped inside the recording studio along the railroad tracks. The man who many call "King of the Delta Blues," the greatest of all the blues performers from Mississippi, had come to Richmond to make his own recordings for the very first time. With his guitar in hand, Patton leaned into the microphone and began to sing: "It's a little bo weevil, she's moving in the air, Lordy/You can plant your cotton and you won't get half a cent, Lordy".

Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues ignited the short (1929-34) but significant recording career of Charley Patton, who was born in 1891 on a farm between Edwards and Bolton, Mississippi. Although details of his earliest years are sketchy at best, he seems to have been born into the Chatmon family, his birth father Henderson Chatmon having sired Lonnie and Sam, of Mississippi Sheiks fame, and hokum blues specialist Bo Carter. His mother was Amy Patton, who with her husband Bill Patton and young Charley, moved to the Dockery Plantation outside Ruleville, Mississippi in 1897. It was in the communal setting at Dockery that Charley received his musical upbringing and learned and created the songs that would carry him through the rest of his life. He learned to play guitar here, and between Dockery and the Webb Jennings Plantation in the nearby town of Drew, there resided a veritable Who's Who of blues musicians. Pioneers of the idiom such as Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, Dick Bankston, and Roebuck "Pops" Staples (patriarch of The Staples Singers) were within easy reach during these years. In this environment, musical cross pollination was likely, and it is clear that Patton influenced them all. Son House would come down to visit from his home in the Clarksdale area, and he admits he learned from Patton. The great Howlin' Wolf was another Dockery denizen, and took guitar lessons from Charley Patton. Wolf’s vocal style even resembles Patton’s gravel-throated rasp.

Patton had a varied repertoire from which to draw by the time he left Dockery - not only blues songs, but ballads, ragtime numbers, and traditional tunes born of both black and white cultures. Bill Patton was an elder at the church on the plantation, and though by no means a religious man, Charley was schooled in spirituals. More than a mere blues singer, Charley Patton was a songster, a man who easily tapped into this diverse background, all the while creating his own songs. Throughout the early 1920s he came and went from Dockery, plying his craft around the Mississippi Delta at fish fries, dances, and jook joints, on the streets, and even at logging camps in the region. He is remembered as a great entertainer, one who delighted audiences with his "clowning," dancing on his guitar, or playing behind his back.

Patton moved to Merigold, Mississippi in 1924 and took up housekeeping with one of his common-law wives while maintaining the life of a troubadour. Five years later he left Merigold for Clarksdale and at this time came into the acquaintance of one of the most important figures in 20th century American music, H.C. Speir. Speir was a white man who ran a furniture store on Farish Street in Jackson, Mississippi. He sold Victrolas and as was the custom of the time, phonograph records to play on the machines. Because he catered to a black clientele, his market was in "race" records, which featured the blues and sanctified sounds of African-American culture of the period. More significantly, Speir scouted talent for early race labels, including many of the biggest names among blues, hillbilly, and gospel pioneers. The shape of the musical landscape we know today would be far different if not for Speir. Patton came into contact with Speir, who was impressed enough to dispatch Charley north to commit his songs to shellac. Paramount utilized Marsh Laboratories in Chicago as their recording studios, but decided to construct their own facilities in Grafton, Wisconsin, not far from company headquarters in Port Washington. During this transitional period, Paramount contracted with Gennett Records to record Paramount artists, and as a result, Charley Patton came to Richmond’s Whitewater Gorge in the late spring of 1929.

Patton laid down some of his finest and best-selling sides on June 14, 1929, a total of fourteen in all. Singing along with his guitar, Charley told animated tales of bo weevil and his wife gone to wreak havoc through the land of King Cotton, and autobiographical tales of trying to keep one step ahead of the local sheriff. "When you get in trouble, there's no use of screaming and crying...mmmmm/Tom Rushen will take you back to Cleveland a-flying," he sang in Tom Rushen Blues, about real-life Sheriff O.T. Rushing. In Pea Vine Blues, Patton’s lyrics are about a branch of the Southern Railroad that connected Clarksdale with Greenwood, and ran through many of the towns in which he lived and traveled. Pony Blues, the first song actually released from the Richmond session (b/w Banty Rooster Blues), was a number known to Patton for many years. Charley's hard-living lifestyle was reflected in his selection of other songs to record. The lyrics of Spoonful Blues deal with the protagonist's willingness to kill his lover's man over cocaine. The bawdy Shake It And Break It But Don't Let It Fall Mama features choruses such as: "You can snatch it, you can grab it, you can break it, you can push it/Any way that a fellow can get it./I ain't had my right mind, since I blowed in town./My jelly, my roll, please mama, don't you let it fall".

In contrast, the remaining songs in the session were concerned with mortality and spiritual matters. Prayer of Death - in two parts - begins with a somber introduction spoken by Charley: "The Prayer Of Death. Toll the bell! Time to just toll the bell again. Tell them to sing a little song like this". The first side contains sparse lyrics, while the second opens with lines alternately sung and spoken, then continues: "Ever since my mother's been dead/Trouble's been rolling all over my head/I've been 'buked and I been scorned/I've been talked about sure as you're born," and after a repeat, "Hold to God's unchanging.../Pin your hopes on things eternal." In the final two numbers, Charley Patton seems to find even more solace in life everlasting. Lord, I'm Discouraged finds him lamenting, "Sometimes I get discouraged. I believe my work is in vain. And then, hope. But the Holy Spirit whispers, and revive my mind again." The chorus: "There'll be glory, what a glory when we reach that other shore./There'll be glory, what a glory, praying to Jesus evermore./I'm on my way to glory, that happy land so fair/I'll soon reside with God's army, with the Saints of God up there".

Charley Patton may have seen the Light, but he continued to live hard and fast. He had a large appetite for alcohol, and troubles with the law were not uncommon. His throat was slashed badly in a 1930 altercation in Cleveland, Mississippi, from which he recovered. Around this same time in Lula, Mississippi, Charley met and "married" the last of his common-law wives, one Bertha Lee Pate, a blues singer half his age, and theirs was a tempestuous relationship. The old jailhouse still stands in Belzoni, Mississippi where Charley and Bertha Lee were both incarcerated following a particularly bad fight. Charley recounted the story in his High Sheriff Blues.

Patton recorded many more records for the Paramount and Vocalion labels in the next few years, at Grafton, Wisconsin, and at studios in New York City. He was often accompanied by Son Sims on fiddle or Willie Brown on second guitar. Bertha Lee added vocals to some of the dates as well. Patton and Bertha Lee traveled to New York for what would be his final sessions on January 30th and February 1st in 1934. The couple had settled in tiny Holly Ridge, Mississippi in 1933, and by this time Charley was suffering from a heart ailment that left him chronically breathless and often drained after performances. Upon Charley’s return from the sessions in New York City, his health began to deteriorate rapidly, and he was hospitalized in Indianola, Mississippi on April 17, 1934. He died at a house at 350 Heathman Street in Indianola on April 28, 1934. He is buried next to a cotton gin in a Mississippi Delta cemetery in Holly Ridge.

Charley Patton was a giant of American roots music, a major influence on his contemporaries and on the generations that followed. Performers who left the South in the Great Northern Migration carried Charley’s music to cities such as Detroit and Chicago, where it was handed down and adapted in ensuing decades.
 - Don Ely, Rochester, Michigan - Starr-Gennett Foundation, Inc.
   (http://www.starrgennett.org/stories/history/6.htm)
 

Recording career: 1929 - 1934
Most popular song(s): "Pony Blues" (1929) was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2006.
 - Wikipedia
"Mississippi Boweavil Blues", Screamin' and Hollerin' The Blues", Down The Dirt Road Blues", "Pea Vine Blues", "Tom Rushen Blues", "Prayer Of Death Part 1 and 2", "High Water Everwhere Part 1 and Part 2".
Musical Influences: Patton left indelible impressions on Son House, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters, Bukka White, and David Honeyboy Edwards.
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© Copyright 2008 Alan White. All Rights Reserved. © Copyright 2008 Alan White. All Rights Reserved. © Copyright 2008 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

 

Name: Peerless Four Quartette
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Name: Washington Phillips
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Name: Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Singers / Congregation
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Name: Pilgrim Jubilee Singers
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Name: Price Family Sacred Singers
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Name: Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina
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Click on the large 'Initial' at the top of the page to return to the Early Gospel Singers Introduction, or click on an initial below to take you to details of more early gospel singers:

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