King of the Delta Blues, Second Edition
The Life and Music of Charlie Patton
Born 130 years ago in the heart of Mississippi, Charlie Patton (c. 1891–1934) is considered by many to be a father of the Delta blues. With his bullish baritone voice and his fluid slide guitar touch, Patton established songs like “Pony Blues,” “A Spoonful Blues,” and “High Water Everywhere” in the blues lexicon and, through his imitators, in American music. But over the decades, his contributions to blues music have been overshadowed in popularity by those of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and other mid-century bluesmen and women who’ve experienced a resurgence in their music. King of the Delta Blues Singers, originally published in 1988, began a small renaissance in blues and Patton research and set a new scholarly precedent touching even the spelling his name—which, to Patton himself, was “Charlie,” not the “Charley” of the early records. And now, with the wide availability of Patton’s complete discography in multiple formats, this revised second edition brings the legend of Charlie Patton into a clarity of detail that was previously impossible.
Gayle Dean Wardlow and the late Stephen Calt (1946–2010) originally probed Patton’s career in the Mississippi Delta, his early performances and recordings, and his musical legacy that continues to influence today’s guitarists and performers, including such musicians as Jack White and Larkin Poe. For this second edition, Wardlow and Edward Komara refined the text and rewrote major sections, updating them with new scholarship on Patton and Delta blues. And finally, Komara has added a new afterword bringing Patton into the contemporary blues conversation and introducing numerous musical examples for the modern researcher and musician.
The second edition of King of the Delta Blues Singers will further cement Patton’s legacy among important blues musicians, and it will be of interest to anyone absorbed in the beginnings of the Delta blues and music biographies.
EDWARD KOMARA has directed the Julia Crane Memorial Library at SUNY Potsdam since 2001. He is the author of 100 Books Every Blues Fan Should Own and The Road to Robert Johnson.
GAYLE DEAN WARDLOW is a historian of American blues. He is the author of Chasin’ That Devil Music and coauthor of Up Jumped the Devil.
STEPHEN CALT (1946–2010) was a researcher and writer on the American blues.