Although rarely popular with his fellow musicians, if in the 1920's the Mississippi Delta had a celebrity then it was Charley Patton.  He was born near Edwards, Mississippi to Bill and Annie Patton, sometime between 1881 and 1891, possibly in 1887 although this date cannot be confirmed. During his lifetime doubt was cast on whether Bill Patton was his biological father, and legend had it that Charley was actually the son of Henderson Chatmon. He was an earlier suitor of his mother and head of the musical Chatmon family that included members of the Mississippi Sheiks. Whatever the truth, Charley was of mixed Caucasian, African-American and native American heritage, and his family were plantation workers who moved to Dockery's plantation near Cleveland where Charley developed his love of music. His father was the elder of a church on the plantation and Charley learned a repertoire of religious songs. He took up the guitar in his early teenage years, learning his art from one Henry Sloan, a day labourer and part time musician on the plantation.

 As soon as he was old enough he went on the road, playing blues. At first he made very little money as he played the different towns along the Mississippi River. An inventive songwriter, he gradually gained popularity, and began travelling further a field, to Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, and eventually, Illinois. Legend has it that he was offered a position in W.C.Handy's band after a chance encounter In Cleveland, Mississippi, but that Charley he turned this down. However he was soon able to give up the itinerant lifestyle as he became more and more in demand and he could pick where and when he would play. A showman and entertainer both on and off stage, the crowds loved him wherever he went. He was a flashy dresser, a hard drinker, had a short temper, and as evidence of his love of female company, during his relatively short life he 'married' eight times, either legally or by taking common law wives.

Although he was a small man, less than five foot six inches tall, and lightweight, he singing voice, roughened by whiskey and cigarettes, was loud and hoarse, accompanied by driving, rhythmic guitar playing. He first recorded for Paramount in June 1929 in Richmond, Indiana. (During early 1929 Paramount was building a new recording facility and contracted with Gennett Records, in Richmond, to do the recording for them). Patton  went on to record over 60 tracks in the following five years. In 2008 Patton was recognised on the Gennett Walk of Fame with a plaque near the old Gennett studio.He was a major influence on other early blues pioneers, most notably Son House and Willie Brown. Sometime after 1930 he nearly lost his life when, during a fracas, his throat was cut. This may have been in a knife fight although some reports claim that his throat was slit either by a prostitute in a juke joint or possibly by his then current "wife". He survived that encounter but in 1934 a combination of alcoholism and hard living finally caught up with him, and he collapsed after giving a performance at a white dance. He died a few weeks later of heart failure following an infection, in the arms of his last wife Berth Lee Pate. Ironically the Delta's first 'King' of the blues, an itinerant who had helped define the Delta sound, died in Indianola, Mississippi, less than 20 miles from Dockery's Plantation where it all began for him.

    Shake It And Break It