“If you had to pick one single spot as the birthplace of the blues, you might say it all started right here. Son House played here, Willie Brown played here, and here at Dockery was another blues musician and he was Charley Patton — the Father of the Delta Blues.”
– B.B. King
High Water Everywhere Pt. 1 – Charley Patton
“Man come through there picking a guitar called Charley Patton and I lik’ded his sound and so every night that I’d get offa work, I’d go to his house and he’d learn me how to pick the guitar so I got good with it.”
– Howlin’ Wolf
The earliest places a person could hear the blues were probably at socials, parties, fish fries, and in juke joints, small shacks on the outskirts of the plantation, where blacks converged on Saturday nights to drink cheap whiskey and dance.
Howlin’ For My Darlin’ – Howlin’ Wolf
“[They] been singing it and playing it just like I’m doin’ now, man, for more years than I know. They played it like that in their shanties and in their juke joints and nobody paid it no mind… I got it from them. Down in Tupelo, Mississippi, I used to hear old Arthur Crudup bang his box the way I do now and I said if I ever got to a place I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw.”
– Elvis Presley
“[Dockery] liked for his folks have parties. He’d give free picnics and things like that… Had a platform built for them to dance on the Fourth of July. Start on the Fourth and end up on the Fifth, dancing out there at the grove… All through the year they’d have parties. Mr. Dockery put on big barbecues and Uncle Charley used to play.”
– Bessie Turner (Charley Patton’s niece)
Runnin’ Wild – Charley Patton
As the blues matured and grew more popular, bluesmen became itinerant entertainers, going from juke to juke, living a life of whiskey, song, women, and wandering.
By the turn of the century, the blues had surfaced in west Texas, the Arkansas Delta on the western side of the Mississippi River, Louisiana and even Georgia and the Carolinas.
Rollin’ Stone – Muddy Waters
It’s important to note that in the early years of blues history, few of the musicians who played the blues played just blues. Most likely interspersed into their collection of songs were spirituals, folk standards, pop favorites, just about anything that would make a crowd of people take note… Early bluesmen were really songsters, musicians who played a variety of songs, often in different styles.
“Muddy was there at the beginning, in the Delta, actually sitting at the feet of Charley Patton and Son House. He was a kid when those guys were in their prime. Then he electrified it.”
– Derek Trucks (Rolling Stone, 100 Greatest Guitarists)
[Unless otherwise noted, excerpts taken from A Century of the Blues by Robert Santelli, Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues]