Charlie Patton - The Best Of Charley Patton
Yet there are familiar songs here. "A Spoonful Blues" is a classic about cocaine and was later covered by Cream, among others. And I have lost count of the number of people who have covered the off-beat, humorous tale of the little insect in "Mississippi Bo' Weavil Blues" about the little creature which wrought such havoc across the cotton lands of the southern USA.
So why Charlie Patton? Well, between Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson lies Son House, so Charlie Patton is two steps back on that chain from modern rock music (although there is evidence that Johnson was also directly influenced by Patton). Yet Patton is the essential link to what went before. After him, blues musicians such as John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf were also heavily influenced by Patton and grew up near where he lived. So much of today's music therefore comes from the co-incidence of so many gifted people living in and around a relatively small and otherwise obscure farm in the Mississippi Delta.
Patton grew up on the Dockery Plantation after moving there from his birthplace in Hinds County, Mississippi. The Dockery Plantation can justly lay claim to fame as being the place where the blues was born. He listened at the feet to the guitar playing of a guy called Henry Sloan who first modified the gospel music of the Dockery Plantation chapel by bending the fourth and the seventh. It was Henry Sloan who made the jump from African slave rhythms epitomised by gospel music to the distinctive rhythm and sound of the blues.
Patton looked to Sloan as inspiration and was able to take the older man's style a step or two further. Early on, probably before he turned twenty, Patton had written "Pony Blues", perhaps the closest song surviving to Henry Sloan's style. By the time of the height of his popularity in the late 1920's Patton had composed a number of seminal songs which would form part of the blues canon of later years. By the time he died of heart disease in 1934 he was one of the most popular blues performers of the age.
Henry Sloan died in obscurity and never recorded anything - why would he? Who was going to listen to a black man strumming a guitar on a phonograph in the first decade of the last century? Yet if Charlie Patton had not listened to Henry's music as a kid, and grown up to imitate and expand on it, then there would have been no blues. And no blues meant no rock music and precious little gospel or soul music either. Ultimately, were it not for that conjunction of people, this website would probably be called Classicalemissions.com or we would all be listening to Atomic Kitten and thinking it was marvellous. The prospect of the latter should fill any real music fan with a sense of horror and revulsion and should be reason enough to be thankful to Charlie Patton and go and buy this excellent compilation of his works.
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