was the first great Delta bluesman; from him flowed
nearly all the elements that would comprise the regionís
blues style. Patton had a course, earthy voice
that reflected hard times and hard living. His
guitar style - percussive and raw - matched his vocal
He often played slide guitar and gave that style a
position of prominence in Delta blues. Pattonís
songs were filled with lyrics that dealt with more
than mere narratives of love gone bad. Patton
often injected a personal viewpoint into his music and
explored issues like social mobility (pony Blues),
imprisonment (High Sheriff Blues), nature (High Water
Blues), and morality (Oh Death) that went far beyond
traditional male - female relationship themes.
Patton defined the life of a bluesman. He drank
and smoked excessively. He reportedly had a
total of eight wives. He was jailed at least
once. He traveled extensively, never staying in
one place for too long.
Pattonís standing in blues history is immense; no
country blues artist, save Blind Lemon Jefferson,
exerted more influence on the future of the form or on
its succeeding generation of stylists than
Patton. Everyone from Son
Wolf, and Robert
Johnson to Muddy
Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Elmore James can
trace their blues styles back to Patton.
In a since, Charlie Patton, in addition to being a
bluesman of the highest caliber, might also be the
first rock & roller. Patton was far from
passive when he performed in front of an
audience. It was not uncommon for him to play
the guitar between his knees or behind his back.
He also played the instrument loud and rough.
Patton jumped around and used the back of his guitar
like a drum. He was a showman and made
histrionics part of his act. Patton was inducted
into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1980.
Robert Santelli -- The Big
Book of Blues : A Biographical