Charley Patton Birthplace

Charley Patton Birthplace - Bolton

This marker is currently down for repair.

Mississippi blues master Charley Patton was born on this property when it was known as Herring’s Place, according to Bolton bluesman Sam Chatmon. Patton’s birthdate has often been reported as April 1891, but other sources cite earlier dates, including 1881, 1885, and 1887. (Birth certificates were not required in Mississippi until 1912.) Patton’s astounding body of recorded work (1929-1934) remains unparalleled, and his live performances were reportedly even more awe-inspiring. Patton died on April 28, 1934.

Charley Patton was the most important recording artist, creative musician and crowd-pleasing entertainer in Mississippi blues during his lifetime. He developed his blues in the Delta but drew earlier inspiration from musicians around Bolton, Edwards and Raymond, absorbing a pre-blues repertoire that was still evident in the songs he began recording in 1929.

Patton’s pivotal stature and vaunted musicianship inspired renowned guitar virtuoso John Fahey to undertake a fact-finding journey to Mississippi in 1958. His book Charley Patton was published in 1970. Other seminal Patton researchers were Gayle Dean Wardlow and Stephen Calt, who co-authored King of the Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Charlie Patton (1988), Bernard Klatzko, and David Evans, author of several works on Mississippi blues. A confusing web of oral histories and conflicting documentary data evolved, and scholars’ interpretations varied widely. Debates continue over details of Patton’s life, death and music–even the spelling of his name (Charley vs. Charlie).

Patton’s sister Viola Cannon gave his birth date as 1881 to one researcher and 1887 to another; April 1891 was cited in the 1900 census (consistent with his 1934 death certificate); and July 12, 1885, was entered on his World War I draft registration card. The Patton family usually said he was born between Bolton and Edwards, but another reported birthplace, called “Heron’s Place” in the Calt-Wardlow book, has become widely accepted today. This is the site of farmland once owned by Samuel Lycurgus “Sam” Herring (1839-1904) along the road named in his honor. The source of this report was Sam Chatmon (c. 1899-1983), a noted blues musician from Bolton who knew Patton from an early age and even sometimes said they were half-brothers. The string band music of the popular and prodigious Chatmon musical clan was likely some of the first music Patton heard.

Chatmon, whose parents gave him a name he disdained, Vivian, renamed himself in honor of Sam Herring and claimed some kinship with him. Chatmon recalled the Herring place for its cotton and corn crops, horse races, mechanical rocking horses, commissary, jukehouse for gambling and dancing, and a resident guitarist Patton may have heard, Lem Nichols (born c. 1875). However, Henry Sloan (born c. 1870) was the musician most often cited for his impact on Patton. By Chatmon’s account, Patton lived with two sisters and their mother Annie, apart from her husband Bill, on the Herring farm in the 1890s. In the 1900 census they all resided with Bill Patton and other siblings on land west of Bolton, where Sloan also lived, and by 1902 the Pattons had moved to Will Dockery’s plantation in Sunflower County; Sloan moved there as well. By 1910, Patton was purported to already be the Delta’s leading figure in the developing musical form that came to be called the blues.

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