Sunday, June 25, 2017

Willie Brown Headstone in Prichard, Tunica County, Mississippi

On the afternoon of February 23rd, 2011, Scott Peeples, of the Nowell Memorial Funeral Home, erected the monument.

As a first year master’s candidate in 2009, I published an article in the West Tennessee Historical Society Papers titled “'You Know That I’m Getting Tired of Sleeping by Myself': The Influence of Blues Legend Willie Lee Brown,” which, if nothing else, highlighted the abandoned cemetery in Prichard, Mississippi in which his remains were buried in the 1950s. Soon thereafter I became embroiled in the legal case surrounding access to Warm Springs Cemetery in Copiah County, Mississippi—the final resting place of Tommy Johnson. At the same, unbeknownst to me, some people had gotten their hands on a copy of the journal and been inspired to mark his grave in Tunica County. 

The following text comes from a 2011 article in American Blues Scene:

Our good friends at The Delta Blues Blog wanted to give back to the blues, and coordinated a benefit in Florida, with all proceeds going to purchasing, engraving, and placing a headstone for the legendary and mysterious bluesman Willie Brown. $2100 was needed to purchase the headstone. A number of greatly talented blues musicians donated their time and energy, including Lee Pons, Sean Chambers, Ed Wright, Damon Fowler, and The Backwater Blues Band. Concert T-Shirts were made and blues t-shirts and merch were donated by Bluescentric.com, Legends Guitars in conjunction with Dean Guitars donated a beautiful guitar, the Legendary Blues Cruise donated tickets, author Allen Whitley donated a signed copy of his book, Where Southern Cross The Dog. Mary Lou Sullivan, who we interviewed last year, donated a signed copy of her Johnny Winter autobiography Raisin’ Cain.

Good Shepard Church in 2009
The turnout was wonderful, with roughly 150 in attendance. Between website donations and the benefit, the entirety of the funds were secured. After the money was raised, a great deal of work went into erecting the monument. Gayle Dean Wardlow, David Evans, and other blues scholars were enlisted to determine the most appropriate wording on the headstone. Ellis Darby, of Tunica served as the local liaison, verified the facts, and the guided overall effort, which included securing a local memorial company. Scott Peeples, who runs The Nowell-Memorial Funeral Home, is personally responsible for ordering and erecting the headstone. These two are owed a great debt for their efforts.

The Delta Blues Blog had this to say:
All said and done, we finally got the headstone erected. It was a wonderful journey, and we are quite proud to have been a part of it. We are humbled and overjoyed to have been able to give back to the music that has given us so much. It truly was a pleasure working with all the people involved.
American Blues Scene would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to Jason at The Delta Blues Blog for his many efforts and long hours of fundraising and coordination in placing a headstone for such an important figure in musical history. We were fortunate enough to be involved with the effort nearly from it’s inception to now, and the Delta Blues Blog has selflessly gone far above and beyond the call of blues duty in their efforts, and deserve a massive thank you.

Tuscaloosa names Street for Blues man Shines

Tuscaloosa names Street for Blues man Shines 
By Tommy Stevenson - The Tuscaloosa News - Dec 2009

Please consider helping us mark the grave of Belton Sutherland and Join us for the dedication of Bo Carter's headstone on July 29, 2017!

HOLT — Caroline Shines arrived home last week to find what she says "is the best Christmas present I can think of." Her street off Crescent Ridge Road had a bright new sign designating it Johnny Shines Street, after her father, the late and great blues musician who lived in Holt for the last 20 years of his life before his death in 1992. 

"It's both a Christmas present and birthday present, since my birthday is Dec. 26," Shines said last week as she, also a blues singer, got ready for a gig at the NorthRiver Yacht Club, where she and the Debbie Bond Fabulous Blues Band were to play for the annual Jim Walter Resources Christmas party. Johnny Shines, a member of the Blues Hall of Fame, played slide guitar and was inspired by Robert Johnson, the great and tragic blues man of the 1930s with whom Shines often traveled.

Shines was born in Frayser, Tenn., and like many black musicians of his era he eventually migrated to Chicago where he cut some classic blues records in the 1940s and 1950s. He moved to Holt in the early 1970s and was still playing locally when he died at the age of 76, less than a week before his 77th birthday. "He had a show booked for the Train Station (a former Tuscaloosa music venue) the next week when he died," said Caroline, his only child. It was Caroline's idea to rename what had been 11th Street, the only place she and her father ever lived in the Tuscaloosa area, Johnny Shines Street. But to do so she had to secure the approval of every resident and property owner on the street before the Tuscaloosa County Commission, which has jurisdiction over unincorporated Holt, would give its approval. 

"I walked up and down this street for weeks," she said Friday. "I even had to get court re-cords and get on the Internet to track down some property owners who live out of state and write them letters. "It took a lot of time, but it was worth it." 

The commission approved her request in August, but com-mission clerk Lisa Whitehead, who Caroline says "was a tremendous help at every step of the way," said the Johnny Shines Street signs did not arrive until earlier this week. "They had to be special ordered, and I guess there was some sort of backup at the state highway department," she said. "But they got here, and we got them up as soon as possible." 

Bond, one of the founders of the nationally-recognized Alabama Blues Project that teaches after-school music classes and tries to bring attention to blues musicians with Alabama ties, said she is thrilled the street where Johnny Shines spent his last years now bears his name. 

"We can't let our rich heritage in the blues be forgotten, and we've got to not only preserve it, but keep it going through the young people," said Bond, who often backed up Shines on guitar. Bond said the blues project also wants to raise money for a monument at Shines' grave in Cedarwood Cemetery south of Tuscaloosa. 

"Two or three times a year we get people from all over the world contacting us and wanting to know where they can find Johnny's grave," she said. "Sometimes I think there is more reverence for the blues in Europe than in the United States, where it was born. "But at least now we have a Johnny Shines Street we can show blues tourists," she said. 

The Grave of Johnny Shines - Tuscaloosa, Alabama

(Jackson, MS) Clarion Ledger, Apr 21, 1992.
For more about Johnny Shines please click HERE

© T. DeWayne Moore 2017
© T. DeWayne Moore 2017
© T. DeWayne Moore 2017
© T. DeWayne Moore 2017
© T. DeWayne Moore 2017

© T. DeWayne Moore 2017
© T. DeWayne Moore 2017
© T. DeWayne Moore 2017
© T. DeWayne Moore 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Unmarked & Whisky-Soaked Career of Barrelhouse Pianist Willie Love

The Unmarked & Whisky-Soaked Career of 
Barrelhouse Pianist Willie Love

The Greenwood Commonwealth, Feb 27, 1929.
Duncan, Mississippi, a tiny town, just South of Clarksdale on Highway 61, was wiped out by a tornado in 1929.  

It was here that Willie Love was born, the son of Willie Love Sr. and Anna King, on November 4th, 1906. He was raised as a field-hand, but nothing whatsoever can be discovered about his early life or the influences and events that inspired him to become a musician. It is highly probable, however, that he, like so many of his contemporaries, did not leave his plantation home until he was at least 30, for he is not remembered by those active before the Second World War.

1910 US Census - Duncan, MS
Whatever the case, he was a proficient blues pianist, specializing in slow numbers of the Leroy Carr-Roosevelt Sykes variety in 1938, when he bobbed up on the scene, for the first remembered time, as a member of the Tunica-based Silver Kings Band, led by drummer Barber Parker. This was the band in the area at the time, but Willie'd quit by 1940 to work solo as house-pianist for gambling joints in the vicinity of Indianola, before drifting into Greenville, a town that became a permanent base until his death.

It was in Greenville that he befriended Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex 'Rice' Miller) and from 1942 onwards was a regular visitor to Helena, across the Mississippi River, to broadcast with the King Biscuit Boys or gig in the locality. This gained him a measure of recognition and he was quick to form his own combo, The Three Aces, drawing on the Silver Kings Band for personnel. With men like Barber Parker or guitarist G P Jackson he travelled around the Delta during the mid-forties, becoming a very popular attraction at juke-joints and plantation dances.

By 1946 he'd found regular employment in Greenville itself and has been described by Burl Carson, a long-time resident of the town, as, 'The best piano player in this town then. A little more uptown (in sound): a little more classy.' Willie played his classy blues in more respectable clubs like the Casa Blanca or took weekend jobs in the country at Lake Village, Arkansas: Arcola, where he performed at the Harlem Club; Drew, with its Matinee and '49' clubs; Leland and Belzoni. Little Bill, a guitarist from Lake Villages, Charley Booker and bassist Willie Dotson were all regular accompanists.

Willie Love in the 1940s
Station WGVM opened up in Greenville during 1948 and Willie, sponsored by local businessmen, went on the air for 30 minutes every morning. The show was hosted by disco-jockey Eddie Williams and Charley Booker, Elmore James and Rice Miller made appearances when in the area. The programme greatly added to Willie's reputation, but he left Greenville within a year to help Rice form a new band in West Memphis.

He found employment with station KWEM at West Memphis in 1949 and began to broadcast with his Aces, advertising the Broadway Furniture Store. Joe Willie Wilkins, Rice, Oliver Sain (drums), Willie Nix and Forrest City Joe all worked with him at one time or another and he even married Sain's mother, becoming the 17-year-old's step-father. Willie, like most of the others, lived at the 'Williamson' home and would leave from there in the evenings to fill bookings in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Willie Love’s prodigious thirst had earned him the status of both legendary boozer and physical wreck. Around to 1948, Love had married the mother of a teenaged aspiring drummer by the name of Oliver San, and the three lived together in Greenville for a time. In an interview with Steve LaVere, Sain, who later took up tenor sax and arranging for Little Milton Campbell (among others), recalled gigging with his step-father around West Memphis in the late l940s, along with Son, Boy Williamson and Herman Parker, a young vocalist/harp player who styled himself as "Sonny Boy Junior—and eventually simply Junior Parker. Sain recalled that both love and Williamson embodied the classic traits of oldtime bluesmen, drinking and womanizing to the hilt. Once, when Sain and Parker were having difficulty collecting their sidemen's wages after such a gig, Sain approached Sonny Boy with his concerns: 'I went to Son, Boy to complain about the fact that a lot of times, when you finish a job, (Son, and Willie) had already drunk up the money, days ago, man! The club owner says. 'There's no money, they come and got yours, too!' So I went to Sonny Boy and was explainin' to him and I said. 'Man you know, I'm finding that when y.all drink like that, we don't wind up making anything, Junior and I don’t, because we don't drink.' So he said, 'Well, I guess y’all gonna have to start drinking!”

He had a good thing going, but was quick to leave West Memphis after Rice's sudden departure, asking Willie Nix to look after his radio spot. Willie returned to Greenville and settled down with his wife at 236 North Street. He managed to pick-up where he'd left off and began to play Nelson Street jukes like the Silver Dollar Cafe. By late 1950 he'd met and teamed up with Rice again and was taken off to Jackson to meet Lilian McMurry of the newly-formed Trumpet label. At first he recorded as a sidesman only, but, on April 7th, 1951, went into Jackson with his own combo—Otis Green (sax), Lonnie Holmes (guitar), and Alex Wallace (drums)—to cut his initial sides. One of these, 'Take It Easy Baby', an uptown-jump number, indicated that the Aces were bang-up-to-date with their material.

It was back to the studio in July, but Willie's best recordings were made during a mammoth December session with Bill Holford of ACA handling production. The sensitive guitar work of Joe Willie Wilkins did much to help 'Nelson Street Blues', a personal tribute to Greenville's 'action' strip, become a well-remembered success and, perhaps, Willie's most famous number, but each of the eight titles cut on that occasion is a mini-masterpiece with excellent lyrics.

Willie had always been a heavy drinker, in the best blues traditions, and it was at this stage that his kidneys began to play up, causing him a great deal of pain. He was also having personal problems, probably because he spent so much time away from home and sometime in 1952 his wife left Greenville for St Louis. He quickly followed, even making a trip to Detroit to gig with Baby Boy Warren, an old friend, but was sick and unhappy and by January 1953 was back in Jackson on his own.

By late July 1953, Willie's condition had seriously worsened, and he was drinking all the more to try to kill the pain in his failing kidneys. Lillian soon learned of his crisis. One day outside the Record Mart she came upon her old friend 'Slim,’ (Bobo Thomas). sitting on the curb, crying. He was grieving for his idol Willie, who he said was suffering terribly. The McMurrys quickly dispatched their family physician to check on Love, and he was ordered to report to the Baptist Hospital in Jackson for treatment. 

Lillian recalled, “I’d tried to warn Willie about drinking too much, but he just wouldn't listen. We paid our private doctor to care for him and catheterize him or he'd have burst. At first, we really thought Willie would get well." But years of constant gigging, partying, and juicing had caught up with the forty-six year-old bluesman. Lillian remembered that his final Jackson session at Ammons's had been a disappointment, and felt that his health was the problem. The March session had produced "Worded Blues" and "Lonesome World Blues," both masterful performances from a purely aesthetic standpoint. The overpowering sense of gloom and doom disappointed the producer, for she always had related better to the happier, upbeat elements. In "Lonesome World Blues" he sang
I start to go to Memphis
But I didn't know in my mind
Seems like everybody wanna mistreat me all the time
And I believe, l believe I’ll go back home
Seem like everybody everybody wanna do me wrong
On August 19, Lillian went to see Willie at the hospital. She found him in the last throes of his struggle, but he found the strength to express his gratitude to his benefactress. "Miss Lillian," he said, "you and M. Willard were batter to me than my own people." By 9 p.m. that night, Willie Love's trials were over.

The McMurrys sadly arranged for funeral services to be held at Collins Funeral Home at 418 North Farish. Willie was laid out in an open casket in his sharpest suit, surrounded by flowers and friends. He had been a beloved symbol of good music and good times to the Mississippi blues community, and the funeral was crowded with cronies like Sonny Boy, "Slim," Little Milton, and others who came to pay respects and share a last glimpse of their fallen buddy. No doubt some few of his old lovers came in black dresses, and no doubt his lines, "Give my body to the fishes, my soul to the Lord above," were recalled. DRC paid the expenses for the funeral, minister's fee, and burial, and regretfully closed the books on one of the greatest barrelhouse piano players of the era. The legacy of his Trumpet recordings preserves the memory of the quick little man with the white spats and lively patter, who could dance and play circles around his blues, but was at last consumed by them.

Though Willie Love had friends around at his funeral, he was quickly forgotten after his burial in Jackson's Elmwood Cemetery. In the 1970s, a few researchers managed to glean the few facts that make up this biography. Hopefully someone else may be able to dig up more about his life and eventually turn in a story that really does him a justice. His grave remains unmarked

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Biography of Charley Patton (Part 2 of 2)

The Biography of Charley Patton (Part 2) 
By David Evans and Dean Blackwood of Revenant Records - 11/3/05

Please consider helping us mark the grave of Belton Sutherland and Join us for the dedication of Bo Carter's headstone on July 29, 2017!

Charley’s popularity among whites, however, was established well before he began his recording career. He was in great demand as an entertainer, and apparently he was reluctant to turn down any request, sometimes booking himself twice in one night. This practice occasionally got him in trouble when crowds wanted to hold him over. There were also problems when whites wanted him on a night when he was already booked to play for blacks. Charley’s niece recalled an incident in which his engagement for a black dance in Blaine was cut short by a rifle toting white man who needed his services at a white dance atop a bridge: 

And Uncle Charley sat on that bridge and played for them white folks until about five o’clock the next morning. All them white folks was all on that bridge dancing. Uncle Charley was sitting there making music for them. They done broke up this other dance, and then they put their dance on the bridge. I’ll never forget that...He used to have some tough times. He couldn’t be but one. They tried to make him be two folks and play so much for this one and so much for that one. 

THE IDEA of a white man in the Delta hijacking Charley Patton from a black dance to play for whites is enough to boggle the mind. It would be as if a white New York cop hijacked James Brown from a show at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre to perform at a policemen’s ball. Like the cop, the man in Blaine undoubtedly knew he could get away with it. What is rather incredible is that he wanted Charley so badly, that all the other whites wanted him, and that Charley entertained them until five o’clock in the morning. One wonders if Charley or any of the whites attached any significance to all this. Were the whites drawing Charley into their world for a night? Or was Charley drawing the whites into some inscrutable world that fascinated them but which they didn’t really understand? Was he secretly pleased that the people “were trying to make him be two folks?” The fact that he played on a bridge only seems to add some special symbolic meaning to the whole affair. 

The ultimate reasons for Patton’s extraordinary popularity in the Delta are hard to pinpoint. Clearly, Fahey was right, in a sense, in stressing Patton’s role as a consummate entertainer. He could give an audience what it wanted in the way of repertoire and style, and he did many tricks with the guitar, snapping the strings, playing it behind his head and between his legs, flipping it, tapping on it with his fingers, and so forth. But there were plenty of other blues artists who could do tricks and gave audiences what they wanted. Many, like Willie Brown, may have been technically better and more versatile guitarists and were often judged so by their peers. Others, like “Son” House, had better natural voices. But there is something special that seemed to set Charley Patton beyond the others in his own day and which still exerts a great power through his records almost seventy years after his death. There is a special quality of timing in his singing and playing that is hard to define but immediately arrests the attention. Beyond this there is a sense of absolute conviction in his singing and playing. To a greater degree than the others, over a longer period of time, on a more regular basis, and equally in front of black and white audiences, Charley Patton was able to plumb the depths of feeling contained in his blues, spirituals, and other folksongs. Even when he garbled his words or meaning or made mistakes on the guitar, as he occasionally did, the feeling is there: one of overwhelming intensity. It is a feeling that Palmer has aptly called deep blues, a phrase used by blues artists themselves as their ultimate aesthetic criterion for the music and its performers.32 And despite his occasional mistakes and shortcomings, his records reflect a feeling of intense pride in his work. He may have considered his recording sessions to be just another job, he may not have rehearsed his songs as much as he should have, but underlying this casual approach and willingness to please all audiences there was a strong oneness and wholeness of character and talent in a man that people were trying to make into “two folks.” 

ONE OF THE most unfathomable aspects of Charley Patton’s life is his actual personality. As already noted, several writers have painted a rather negative picture of the man. This picture, however, is not consistent with the great respect that was accorded to him. His nephew states that he was “friendly with everybody.” Rev. Rubin Lacy, a former blues singer, who knew Charley in the Delta around 1929 or 1930, stated, “I thought he had fine ways and actions. He wasn’t no bad man.... He had a good record. He stood good. He had no bad marks on him. Oh yeah, he was a nice guy.”33 Some of Patton’s alleged failings might be taken another way. For example, “Son” House has stated that he was tight with his money.34 On the other hand, this might be viewed as an inclination to save or not spend his money foolishly. Unlike most blacks in the Delta, Charley had money throughout the year, and there must have been many “friends” who approached him for loans. Knowing from his father how the credit system worked in the Delta, Charley probably wisely chose not to “furnish” his friends for the year. 

There is no doubt that Charley Patton drank liquor. Possibly he could have been classified as an alcoholic. The nature of his profession meant that he would always be in an environment where drinking was a normal form of behavior. He must have had many drinks offered to him. But for all the reports of his drinking, there are none that have him “sloppy drunk” or unable to perform at his best. The main reports of heavy drinking come from the last two years of his life, when he knew he had heart trouble. Possibly in these years his consumption of alcohol was no greater than it had been earlier, but he was simply less able to withstand its effects. His sister Viola stated that “he hardly drank at all.”35 Reverend Rubin Lacy’s comment was simply, “Well, his drinking, a lot of us fellows did that.”36 Perhaps the situation is best summed up by Tom Rushing, a former deputy sheriff of Bolivar County whose specific duty it was to arrest the makers of moonshine whisky. Rushing said, “He seemed to be a more or less sober man. I don’t think, probably he would have ever gotten where he did if he’d been fighting that hundred proof corn whisky.” 

Charley Patton’s argumentativeness seems to have been confined mainly to his relationships with women. These relationships will be examined shortly. His relatives have stated that he was friendly, and most other musicians agree with this assessment. There are consistent reports, however, that Patton argued frequently with Willie Brown. Brown was an outstanding artist and technically may have been a more accomplished guitarist than Patton. He was not as charismatic, however, and perhaps doubted his ability as a singer, preferring to accompany other artists. Charley was undoubtedly aware of Brown’s ability and may have felt threatened. Other blues musicians in particular rated Brown highly and tended to compare his playing favorably to Patton’s. Patton was proud of his popularity and may have resented Brown’s reputation among their fellow musicians. He and Brown are said to have argued mainly over musical matters. Perhaps, though, their arguments were more in the nature of “lovers’ quarrels.” Patton and Brown did, after all, perform together off and on for about twenty years, the longest partnership in either musician’s career. Patton had partially taught Brown, as he did many other musicians to the end of his career. Even after Brown moved to Lake Cormorant in the northern part of the Delta around 1930, he continued to play frequently with Patton. Patton was furthermore responsible for calling Brown to the attention of a record company, something he did also for such artists as Henry Sims, “Son” House, Louise Johnson, and Bertha Lee. 

Patton’s attitude toward and treatment of women may not have been exemplary in all cases, but they become a bit more understandable when one realizes two facts. One is that Charley clearly believed that the Patton family deserved his primary loyalty. His niece and nephew both have said that he was very generous and helpful to his parents and sisters. As a corollary to his attitude that he should help the Patton family, particularly its women, Charley evidently believed that his own wives or girl friends should be self-supporting. He made good money himself and must have thought that he deserved a woman who did the same. “Son” House has said that Patton was the kind of man who liked to have a woman who worked in the white folks’ kitchen. In this way he wouldn’t have to pay for her food, as the woman could bring home enough left-over food from the kitchen to feed them both.37 House may have been generalizing from the particular position of Bertha Lee, Patton’s last wife and apparently the only one House knew. However, even if this was generally the case with Patton, his attitude is quite understandable. As someone with a cash income, Patton was automatically a highly desirable mate. Charley Patton was in a position to have plenty of casual affairs with women, but for his steady woman he probably wanted someone of economic standing similar to his own. 

A Biography of Charley Patton (Part 1)

A Biography of Charley Patton (Part 1)
By David Evans and Dean Blackwood of Revenant Records

Please consider helping us mark the grave of Belton Sutherland and Join us for the dedication of Bo Carter's headstone on July 29, 2017!

Charley Patton died on April 28, 1934, some three months after his final recording session. During the preceding five years he had become the most extensively recorded of the early Mississippi folk blues artists, leaving behind a legacy of fifty-two issued songs as well as accompaniments of other artists. 

Patton was the first recorded black folk artist to comment directly and extensively on public events that he had witnessed or experienced and to treat events in his own life as news. He was also the first recorded black folk artist to mention white people from his own community in his songs, sometimes unfavorably. He did all of this while continuing to live his life in the Mississippi Delta, a region which featured perhaps the most rigid racial caste system in the entire nation.1 

Charley Patton was almost certainly born in 1891, making him more or less a younger member of the first generation of folk blues singers, the originators of this genre. It is known that Patton himself learned some of his music from other artists who were a few years older. He is nevertheless the earliest Mississippi blues artist about whom we have much information, although much of this information comes from the last five years of his life during which he made his recordings. He was extraordinarily influential on other Mississippi blues artists and was a role model in both music and lifestyle for many of them. Among the many artists he is known to have influenced or inspired are Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, “Son” House, Bukka White, Big Joe Williams, Howlin’ Wolf, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and Roebuck “Pops” Staples. Bukka White, a great Mississippi blues artist eighteen years Patton’s junior, recalled saying as a child that he wanted “to come to be a great man like Charley Patton.”2 White was not alone in his great respect for this man. It is probably fair to say that Charley Patton is the only black person of his generation to live virtually his entire life in Mississippi who still has a national and international impact and whose name and accomplishments are known to many outside his immediate family and community over a century after his birth and almost seventy years after his death. This piece does not purport to be a full-scale biography but is mainly concerned with matters of personality and with reaching an understanding of the social context of Patton’s life and music. It is based largely on the internal evidence in Patton’s songs that contain biographical details and allu¬sions and on interviews with relatives and associates of Charley Patton, particularly his sister Viola Cannon, his niece Bessie Turner, his nephew Tom Cannon, and Tom Rushing, a figure in one of his songs.3 

Previously published accounts4 of Charley Patton’s life, character and personality have been based on the evidence of his records as well as interviews with fellow blues artists (especially “Son” House), friends, relatives, ex-wives, and girl friends. The first publication to give much significant information about Patton was a booklet by Bernard Klatzko published in 1964 as the notes to a reissue album of some of Patton’s records.5 Klatzko obtained his information during a brief field trip to the Delta in 1963 with fellow researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow. Although their interviews of a number of Patton’s relatives and friends were brief and superficial and contained some errors, Klatzko was nevertheless able to piece together an outline of Patton’s life that served as a useful starting point for further research. As for Patton’s lifestyle and personality, Klatzko revealed that he was popular with women and had married several times, that he was fond of drinking liquor and tended to be argumentative. Klatzko also revealed that Patton traveled constantly and was well known in Mississippi. A subsequently discovered photograph showed Patton as having a rather light complexion and curly hair, clearly the product of a mixed racial ancestry. Based on the evidence of Patton’s performing style on his records, Klatzko speculated that the artist felt some sense of outrage, stating, “It must have seemed strange to a man like Patton who looked little different from white men to be relegated to a second class status. At any rate, Charley’s outrage, whatever sparked it, was released in the blues.”6 Later researchers have largely ignored this speculation or tried to paint a portrait of Patton as a carefree entertainer. 

About the time that Klatzko presented the first factually based outline of Charley Patton’s life, “Son” House was rediscovered. House had known Patton for the last four years of the latter’s life and was a Mississippi blues artist of comparable stature to Patton. House clearly found some of Patton’s character traits hard to comprehend or annoying. He told Stephen Calt and Nick Perls in an interview published in 1967 that Patton was argumentative, far from generous with his money, unable to read and write, and careless about his music, preferring to clown for the audience rather than take care to structure his songs coherently.7 In an article published in the same magazine issue as House’s interview, Gayle Dean Wardlow and Stephen Calt (writing under the pseudonym of Jacques Roche) work from House’s assertions and paint an unflattering portrait of Patton as illiterate, self-centered, a drunkard, a glutton, and a hustler of women.8 

In the same year Samuel Charters, drawing upon Klatzko’s booklet and an interview with Patton’s last wife Bertha Lee, presented a more favorable image of Charley Patton and tried to interpret the meaning of some of his songs.9 Stephen Calt, however, soon returned to the offensive. In the notes to the then most widely circulated reissue album of Patton’s recordings Calt asserted that Patton “never learned to read or write and passed most of his time . . . in total idleness,” that he was a “perpetual squabbler,” “extraordinarily tight with money,” always courting women and entering sham marriages with them, beating his wives, and “eating out of the white folks’ kitchen.” Calt adds that Patton was “reportedly disavowed” by his daughter from one of his marriages. 10 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Dedication of Bo Carter's Headstone and Celebration in Nitta Yuma

July 29, 2017 - 5:00 p.m.
The Headstone Dedication and Celebration of Bo Carter
Nitta Yuma Cemetery
Nitta Yuma Plantation - Sharkey County, Mississippi

Join us for the headstone dedication and celebration featuring the original fiddle used by Alonzo Chatmon, the actual National Style N guitar once owned by Bo Carter and all of the amazing musicians who plan to perform at the event in Nitta Yuma, MS on July 29, 2017, such as....

- Ron Bombardi (who like Armenter Chatmon, or Bo Carter, adopted a new name as a musician, "Jersey Slim" Hawkins) is a professor and philosopher with dextrous mental abilities, which he readily transfers through his body so he can walk around town, talk to people, and even write a few simple words every now and again in the academic journals and monographs. The longtime fiddle player for the Stompers, in fact, models his playing style after the Mississippi Sheiks most-accomplished fiddle player, Lonnie Chatmon, the brother of Bo Carter (The two brothers stand to the left of Walter Vinson in the below photo). It is very fitting then that his hero's fiddle will be available for his use in Nitta Yuma.  Lonnie Chatmon's fiddle may be heard once again with the steel-bodied National Style N guitar of Bo Carter.

Bill Steber is the photographer who got the good shots of the most recent group of the blues legends, whose work you may have seen at the local university or in Oxford American magazine, but he doubles as one of the potent musical forces behind the Murfreesboro, TN-based Jake Leg Stompers.
- Blues musician Andy Cohen's amazing career has spanned decades so I have prepared a collection of content for your reading and viewing pleasure HERE or you can visit his website HERE

- Blues traveller and musician Steve Cheseborough's admiration and enthusiasm for the music of Bo Carter is all but limitless. He has informed the owner of the National Style N guitar of Bo Carter!!!! And he is Nitta Yuma bound and down!!! Click HERE to read Cheseborough's epic quest for his own personal Holy Grail of the Blues!

- Moses Crouch is a hill country musician of the most committed order who is often heard cooking up his liniments and draining out special orders of snake oil juice with the Memphissippi Medicine. Despite being the youngest musician to confirm thusfar, his repertoire includes plenty of music with an old soul...

Miles Floyd, the grandson of Armenter Chatmon, will be on hand at the event. So will the original instruments owned and played by the Chatmon family.

Henry Phelps, the landowner of the small hamlet, plans to have a large celebration and reception with food and refreshments following the dedication. He has done many excellent renovations of the historic buildings in Nitta Yuma, and the commemoration of Bo Carter's headstone offers everyone a chance to experience this jewel of the mid-Delta through the lens of a unique celebration.

Thank the Blues Gods for Preston Alvin Stone (1927-1993)

A.G. LETTER From Mississippi 
Dear fellow blues travelers, 

The author in 2002
From the Greenwood Commonwealth
I'm writing from out in the north Mississippi countryside, where my life has become complete! I've just found and played the 1932 National Style N single-cone resonator guitar originally owned by my favorite musician: 1930s bluesman Bo Carter, who died in 1964, leaving nothing but his recordings and this instrument. My Holy Grail stands caseless, blithely leaning against a living-room wall in the home of Bill Gandy, a retired railroad engineer and amateur guitarist. Bill, his wife, Beverly, and their teenagers, dogs, and pet pig live here, a few miles out from Potts Camp (population 500). 

For years, I have been fascinated by Bo Carter, the remarkable guitarist and saucy lyricist responsible for such classics as "All Around Man," "I Want You to Know," and "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me." I have spent countless hours listening to his 118 recorded sides and then learning and performing them. His guitar parts are perhaps the most challenging of any country blues artist's, with varied keys and tunings (including the unusual D G D G B E), strange chord shapes, and sparkling runs.

The author (right) in the band Jackolope
Arizona Republic Feb 14, 1987
Five years ago, my fascination progressed to downright obsession. I moved from Arizona to Mississippi to get more in touch with my inner Bo Carter. I enrolled in the master's program in southern studies at the University of Mississippi and did my thesis on Carter. I visited his unmarked grave in a weed-clogged cemetery in Nitta Yuma. I traveled to towns where he hung out. I met a few people who had heard him play. One was a man who marveled about how, totally blind late in life, Bo could tell the difference between a $5 bill and a $10 bill when you handed him a tip. Another was a well-off Vicksburg woman whose mother had employed Bo's wife as a maid. When Bo stopped by to pick up his wife, the woman re-called, he'd break out his guitar and entertain the children with smutty that National guitar songs. Wandering Bo's turf, performing his music, and picking up tidbits of information about him here and there—that's as close to him as I ever expected to get. 

Until I picked up that National guitar.

The Grave of Preston Alvin Stone
Bethel Cemetery, Desoto County , MS
Bo liked it, no doubt, for its flashy look as well as for its loud and distinctive sound and its durability. He still had it in 1960, when British blues researcher Paul Oliver happened to meet him in Memphis and interviewed and photographed him for the book Conversation with the Blues. 

Probably shortly before Carter's death, the guitar passed into the hands of one [Preston Alvin] P.A. Stone [Dec 19, 1927 – Feb 9, 1993 buried in Bethel Cemetery, Desoto County, MS], who ran a trading post from his house in Hernando, Mississippi. Stone was a guitarist himself, a country picker who sometimes played lap-style slide. He liked resonator guitars, but he preferred them with wooden bodies and square necks. This metal-bodied, round-necked guitar was not something he cared to play. so he stuffed it into the crawl-space basement of the building that was his home and store. There it lay hibernating, literally underground, for more than ten years.

Bo Carter in 1960
Photo by Paul Oliver
The guitar was thick with green mold and other corrosion when Stone pulled it out in the late 1970s to show it to Gandy, who was looking for a resonator guitar on which to play slide. Gandy remembers Stone telling him that the guitar had belonged to "an old blues player from Mississippi who could play anything." According to Gandy, he said, "He could play rags, he could play blues, he could play anything, whatever the gig was." Gandy had expected to spend a couple hundred dollars on an old resonator guitar. So when Stone asked for $50, Gandy gave him a puzzled look. Stone apparently misread the look and said, "How about $40?" Gandy bought it, took it home, and used a power sander to remove the crud. He took it to a guitar technician in Memphis to have the neck straightened out so he could play it. And play it he did. "I carried it on a caboose for years," Gandy says. "It sounded so good in there." A native Mississippian, Gandy plays in various styles, including a bit of the blues. He is interested in the music's history and lore. He met Gayle Dean Wardlow, a blues researcher and collector of old 78s and guitars, and told him the National was supposed to have belonged to an old bluesman. Wardlow figured out whose it was and showed Gandy the Oliver photographs. It was uncanny how the wear marks matched. It seemed that Gandy had the guitar of a great bluesman. "It ruined it, in a way," Gandy says. "I was afraid to carry it out. Before that, I had a lot of fun with it on the railroad."

Bo Carter
(circa 1937)
When I pick up the guitar and play Bo Carter songs on it, Gandy and his wife grin with pleasure. They are great songs, yes. But they sound especially great on this guitar. Watching my hands, Gandy notes that the wear spots in the fingerboard match the places where I play the chords Carter used. This is definitely a guitar that was played a lot, by someone who held it the same way Bo Carter did. Its main wear patterns are strikingly like those in the photo. It has a few small marks that don't match the guitar in the picture. But this guitar went through a lot since the picture was taken. Underground storage, sanding, and re-pair may have caused or removed some marks. The guitar also has two provocative dents on the seam—perhaps formed when Bo used the guitar in self-defense, which was another reason the blues players favored metal guitars. Because of the angle of the Oliver photos, those dents, if they're there, are not visible. The guitar handles very well, and Carter's licks fall easily onto its narrow neck. Its sound is punchy and loud, yet warm with age. It sounds like Bo Carter! It's got that plonk to it. I linger for hours at the Gandys' house, listening to records, eating fresh-caught catfish and homemade hush puppies, and playing that guitar. Each time I start to get up to leave, I think of another song I want to try on it. Of course I ask about buying the guitar. But it's not for sale. Gandy is proud of it, of its connection to a great early bluesman, of the strange way he acquired it. And he has been playing it for years. I ask him to talk to me first if he ever decides to sell it. It's a darn nice guitar, whether it was Bo Carter's or not. I head home, listening to Bo playing that guitar on his old recordings on my car stereo. At home, I toast Paul Oliver for photographing Bo Carter's guitar and thus allowing us to identify it now, Bill Gandy for restoring it and giving it a good home, and Bo Carter for making it sing through the ages. Then I pick up my own guitar and play those old licks. So long, baby, so long, 

Written by Steve Cheseborough
For Acoustic Guitar magazine 2002

$10,000 to Save Mt. Zion Church Clarksdale Press Register - 1990

$10,000 to Save Mt. Zion Church
Clarksdale Press Register - 1990

On his recent trip to Clarksdale, vintage guitar dealer Raymond "Skip" Henderson of New Brunswick, N.J., displays a check for $10,000 donated by Columbia Records to the Robert Johnson Memorial Fund. Henderson organized the non-profit corporation with Clarksdale attorney Walker Sims to preserve Mt. Zion M. B. Church near Morgan City where the blues giant Robert Johnson may have been buried. The recent remastering of Robert Johnson's records by Columbia and their skyrocketing-success on Billboard charts has produced an in-tense interest in Johnson's life and death. A strong supporter and fundraiser for Clarksdale/s Delta Blues Museum, Henderson is concerned about preserving blues landmarks in Mississippi.