Category Archives: Blues

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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WC Handy Memorial Concert

WC Handy Memorial Concert

or the official full name…
The Fourth Annual Memphis Country Blues Festival
and the
First Annual WC Handy Memorial Concert

1969 festival #8

Mississippi Fred McDowell – “Goin’ Down to the River”

WC Handy Memorial Concert

WC Handy Memorial Concert

Memphis Sequicentennial Inc

The poster reads: The Memphis Sesquicentennial Inc. in conjunction with The Memphis Country Blues Society proudly presents The Fourth Annual Memphis Country Blues Festival and First Annual W.C. Handy Memorial Concert The Festival will officially begin Friday June 6 and Saturday June 7, 1969 with three daytime concerts and two evening concerts all in the Overton Park Shell, culminating with the W.C. Handy Memorial Concert in the Mid-South Coliseum on Sunday June 8th. Tickets for the Shell concerts will be available at time of performance only Tickets for the W.C. Handy concert will be on advance sale at many Memphis locations ($2.50 to $5.00) Claude Mabel (artist?)

WC Handy Memorial Concert

Some line-up!

Those who played at this comparatively unknown 1969 festival were:   Johnny Winter, Canned Heat, Backwards Sam Firk, Bukka White, Carla and Rufus Thomas, Insect Trust, Fred McDowell & Johnny Woods, Nathan Beauregard, Sun Smith and the Beale Street Five, Elder Lonnie McIntorsch, Sleepy John Estes, Blues Band, Lum Guffin, The World Greatest Jazz Band, Albert King, The Bar-Kays with Toni Mason, Jo-Ann Kelley, Furry Lewis, Slim Harpo, Rev. Robert Wilkins, John Fahey, Southern Fife and Drum Corps, Booker T. and the MGs, Moloch, Casietta George, Sid Selvidge, Soldiers of the Cross, Robert Pete Williams, Rev. Ishmon Bracey, and Wild Child Butler.

Just as white teenagers had inadvertently discovered so-called race music in the early 50s by way of Elvis and other white artists covering black artists’ songs (albeit often “sanitized” to white standards), many white teenagers had wandered into the Delta blues.

WC Handy Memorial Concert

Father of the Blues

WC Handy is called the Father of the Blues because it was his style of the Blues that became the dominant one in America. It happened in Memphis, Tennessee. Specifically on Beale Street. He did all this in the first part of the 20th century.

As festivals became a way to present lots of music to lots of listeners,  it was natural that a blues-themed festival would happen. The first Memphis Country Blues Festival was in 1966 and in 1969 it’s fourth time was combined with the First WC Handy Memorial Concert.

WC Handy Memorial Concert

Woodstock not

Two names that would appear throughout the summer and particularly at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair were Canned Heat, featuring the vocals of Bob Bear Hite and the guitars of Alan Blind Owl Wilson and Harvey Mandel and Johnny Winter. Both were not just blues enthusiasts, but men who studied the history of the blues.

In other words, this festival featured those who had discovered the blues and those who had helped invent it. And while many of the name are far from household names, their contribution to the art is still important.

WC Handy Memorial Concert

 Speckled Bird not impressed

The Great Speckled Bird was an alternative newspaper based in Atlanta, Georgia. had some less than flattering things to say about the way the festival was managed, especially the time when National Educational Television was recording for a future show. “…the TV crew…had no understanding (much less love) of the music and certainly none for the medium of television. Emcee Rufus Thomas had to read insipidly ‘humorous’ announcement before each ‘act’ ; musicians had to stop…so that ‘sound levels’…could be met.” The article continued, “What could have been a groovy, informal recording of the sights and sounds of country blues and electric rock performances…all was lost in a third-rate stage show.”

The presence of uniformed police did not add to the vibe. The article also pointed out that the older musicians were given short shrift sets compared to younger bands who sets organizers allowed to go on much longer.

One young performer that the Bird felt was OK was John D Loudermilk. Many of us know his…

The purpose of the WC  Handy component was to raise scholarship money.

WC Handy Memorial Concert
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