Category Archives: Roots of rock

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Rattlesnake Blues by Charlie Patton

Bluesman Charlie Patton

It is a too often an embarrassing  occurrence with me that I “discover” something  important that has sat in front of me for decades.


A recent morning while listening to the radio, the DJ referred to a movie on Amazon called “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.”  I have Amazon. I watched the movie that day.


Astounding.


Bluesman Charlie Patton

Blurred origins


Trying to pin down who the originator of this or that musical genre  often leads to a lively discussion.  Who gets credit for American blues? And what were their influences?


Great music is filled with emotion and we humans–filled with emotion–have always had music. How it sounds is influenced by the place we live, the time we are a part of, the instruments around us, and other factors.


We humans also like to keep things simple and as a result we too often pigeon-hole a musician because their fame stemmed from just one aspect of their art.


Charlie (or Charley) Patton was much more than just a blues singer, or more specifically, a Delta Blues singer.

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Delta Blues


In the movie, John Troutman, American Music Historian, says, “…blues buffs, blues scholars, although they can’t really agree on anything,  if they were forced into a room when they had to identify…the most important singularly important blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, the whole package, the greatest one there ever was in the early 20th century…they’d probably say Charlie Patton.”


At his site, Elijah Wald explains, “Even though his recording career was sparked by the blues craze, only about half of his roughly fifty records can reasonably be considered part of that then-modern genre. The others are a mix of gospel and religious music, ragtime comedy like “Shake It and Break It,” ballads like “Frankie and Albert,” older slide guitar standards like “Bo Weavil” and “Spoonful,” and a couple of unclassifiable pieces that seem to be his reimaginings of Tin Pan Alley pop numbers, “Some of These Days” and “Running Wild.”


Bluesman Charlie Patton

Patton’s background


Charlie Patton was born in April 1890 or maybe 1891 or maybe 1895.  His parents were Bill and Annie Patton.


While certainly an African-American, it is likely that he had other ancestry, including American Indian. Howlin’ Wolf was a student of Patton’s. Wolf said, “Charlie Patton was an Indian. And he was the baddest motherfucker in the world.:


Most agree today, Patton not only had American Indian ancestry, but that Patton’s music reflects that cultural influence.

Keep in mind, that Native Americans sometimes chose to pass as African Americans because they thought that the dominant white American society treated Blacks better than Natives!


Bluesman Charlie Patton

Dockery Plantation

Bluesman Charlie Patton


In 1897, Patton’s family moved to the Dockery Plantation  near Ruleville, Mississippi.  Will Dockery had started the farm in 1895. Because of its location, there was a lack of local labor available and Dockery encouraged all to work and paid a bit better and more reliably.


As a result, a mixture of backgrounds worked his sawmill and fields. Patton was in the middle of this and his musical abilities were steeped in these backgrounds. In his Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads, the late Robert Palmer described Patton as a “jack-of all-trades bluesman”, who played “deep blues, white hillbilly songs, nineteenth-century ballads, and other varieties of black and white country dance music with equal facility.”


Bluesman Charlie Patton

Legacy

Bluesman Charlie Patton


Charlie Patton was only 43 when he died on April 28, 1934, but his influence on the Delta Blues which gave  birth to Chicago electric blues and so on and so forth until we white Baby Boomers thought the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Cream, John Mayall, and others were playing something original but were simply re-interpreting our own music which was the descendant of American Indian, African, and other musics.


Bluesman Charlie Patton
Bluesman Charlie Patton

John Fahey


Master guitarist and blues fan, John Fahey, wrote a great book about Patton simply, Charley Patton. Here is a link for the entire book.


Bluesman Charlie Patton

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Wynonie Harris Good Rockin’ Tonight

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin’ Tonight

R & B #1 song
October 5, 1948

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin' Tonight

Roots of Rock

Before there was Rock 'n' Roll, there was Rhythm & Blues. We don't call rock R & R (that's something else), but we do call the latter R & B and when Wynonie Harris sang R & B, it was rock and roll.

Wynonie Harris

Most seem to agree that Wynonie Harris was born in Omaha, NE. What the actual date and year were is not as definite. On August 24, 1915? 1920?  Not that important I suppose.

Harris initially found success in his hometown at Jim Bell’s Harlem,club. He danced. Played drums. Sang. 

In 1940 he moved to Los Angeles and continued to find success as a live performer. In 1944, while in Chicago, bandleader Lucky Millinder hired him as his band's new singer. 

Harris's nickname was Mr Blues, not because of soulful singing as his lyrics which some thought smutty and indecent. ("I like my baby's puddin' I like it best of all...She promised she wouldn't give no one her puddin' but me.")

Harris first appeared on stage with Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra on April 7, 1944. One of the songs he sang was "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well."   He recorded that song with Millinder in May though Decca did not release it until April 1945 because of the war shortage of the shellac used to press records. 
The song was a big hit with both black and white audiences, a rare thing in the 1940s. 

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin’ Tonight
Harris quit the orchestra (money issues) and moved back to Los Angeles. Over the years he signed with various labels, but Harris continued to sing powerful songs that, unless one looks at the songs' dates, are surely great rock songs.

One of his biggest hits was Good Rockin' Tonight written by Roy Brown. Brown offered the song to Harris who refused it. Brown recorded it himself and had a hit with it.

Then Harris recorded it in his style which gave the great song even greater energy. In this case, the rockin' referred to is music, not sex as the term rock and roll is a euphemism for. 

In 1954 Sam Phillip's Sun Records released the 19-year-old Elvis Presley's cover of the song. It was Presley's second release. It was not a hit for him.

Many others have covered the song. Carl Perkins, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Ricky Nelson among them, but did you know that the Doors, minus Jim Morrison, covered it?

Wikipedia link about Good Rockin' Tonight
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Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Recorded in New Orleans September 14, 1955

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Richard Wayne Penniman

Richard Wayne Penniman was born on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia. His father was a church deacon Like many young black children, singing in church was a part of life.

The Penniman family joined various denominations, but Little Richard, a nickname kids gave him as a youth, preferred the Pentecostal churches because of their live music. Richard's strong voice sometimes got him in trouble with the other singers.

In high school he played the saxophone. He also worked at the Macon City Auditorium where he heard many of his favorite performers such as Cab Calloway and his favorite, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

On October 27, 1947, Sister Rosetta Tharpe heard 14-year-old Little Richard singing two of her gospel recordings before her concert at Macon City Auditorium. She invited him to sing onstage. The crowd loved his performance and Tharpe paid him for it.

Little Richard was in show business.

Show business slow

At first he sang locally because he was still in school, but he gradually put school second. In 1948, he joined Dr Hudson's Medicine Show where he sang some secular songs for the first time.  He considered rhythm and blues sinful. 

After being part of several traveling shows which exposed more and more to that rhythm and blues, Little Richard befriended the energetic performer Billy Wright. Little Richard's performances also become more energetic.  

In 1951, Wright's connections got Little Richard a recording session whose demos impressed RCA records enough to offer him a contract. Though he had a local hit ("Every Hour" in Georgia), there wasn't an follow up success and he left RCA in 1952. 

 Little Richard's father died shortly afterwards. That and the lack of financial success as a musician forced him to find any jobs available such as a dishwasher.  He continued playing music, more and more rhythm and blues and in February 1953 signed with Peacock Records but was again dissatisfied with that relationship. 
In 1955 Little Richard sent demos to Specialty Records where owner Art Rupe felt Little Richard could be another Ray Charles. Rupe began that quest in his New Orleans studio.

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

But it was in a nearby bar during a studio break that lightning struck. Little Richard played "Tutti Frutti." It was a song whose lyrics were not suitable for recording and certainly not air play.

They changed the original...

 

Tutti Frutti, good booty

If it don't fit, don't force it

You can grease it, make it easy
     to...
Tutti Frutti, aw rooty

Tutti Frutti, aw rooty.
Aw rooty simply being slang for "Alright"

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom

Apparently having a girl named Sue who knew just what to do was just fine to say. 

He recorded Tutti Frutti on this date in 1955 and Specialty released it in November. 

It is considered by many to be one of the greatest rock and roll songs. Period.

It is hard to argue with them.

Little Richard became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the first year of the Hall.

Rolling Stone magazine lists it at #43 of the best songs of all time.

Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, 

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