Charlie Patton vs. Son House

A discussion of the blues for blues lovers and fans.

Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby drmojo » Fri Jun 22, 2001 4:38 pm

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-- Posted by cannedheat on 5:36 pm on May 31, 2001

Two of the blues founding fathers square off in a good old fashioned guitar cutting contest. Who's the winner?? I'll post later...haven't been to the beach all day...
I am out!!!!!!!!!



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-- Posted by NotSonHouse on 6:45 pm on May 31, 2001

WHAT!!! :o...Are you breathing too deeply while topping off the gas tank? Patton VS House? While Patton may be considered the Father of the Blues by many. Can anyone out there really understand what he was saying? Voicewise, Patton can't even come close to House. Guitar playing...well, Patton owned a guitar, that we know, perhaps he should have paid attention to House's playing now and then...to say nothing of Willie Brown at the time.



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-- Posted by HOWLNWOOF on 7:03 pm on May 31, 2001

This would be comparable to one of those Mike Tyson 20 seconds into the first round TKO's.......

While I like Pattons stuff and understand his historical importance.......SON HOUSE WINS HANDS DOWN.......well , perhaps hands flailing away , eyes rolled back in his head ,
body convulsin' like he's possessed.........I'd take Son in his old age over Patton in his prime......

Next contender please !!!!!!!



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-- Posted by cannedheat on 11:36 pm on May 31, 2001

Hey NotSon-
Just cause I live on the west coast doesn't make me a fume sniffer. Seriously though, I must agree with you and the WOOF, that Son House is the choice here hands down. His guitar playing is far superior to Patton's. Although I think you are under-rating Patton as a vocalist. He's not in Son's league, but I think he conveys an amazing amount of emotion with his singing. It ain't very pretty, but it gets the job done.



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-- Posted by NotSonHouse on 8:47 am on June 1, 2001

cannedheat...NoNo!! Not talking bad about Patton at all. In fact I like his voice, just not on a par with House. I wish that I could song as good as Patton even.



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-- Posted by 1934 on 3:10 pm on June 18, 2001

What drug are you people on?  Son House couldn't hold a candle next to Charlie Patton.  Read the book by Steven Calt & Gayle Wardlow, Son House was so jealous of Charlie it was unbelieveable.  Son House's guitr playing was so simpleton next to Patton's.  Granted, Charlie was probably a real asshole as far as a personality goes, nevertheless, most of the early blues artists with the exception of Blind Lemon & Leadbelly ripped off Charlie one way or another.  My vote, Charlie Patton.  Oh one more thing, probably the best judge of 1920-1930 blues talent was H.C. Speir, the ONLY one of those artists of that day that Speir would travel to see was Charlie Patton, NOT Son House.

(Edited by 1934 at 3:14 pm on June 18, 2001)



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-- Posted by HOWLNWOOF on 4:47 pm on June 18, 2001

OOOOOOO...............

seems we've struck a nerve..................
I still like Son better.................



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-- Posted by Chilly Willy on 4:52 pm on June 18, 2001

Nice post, 1934!  That was solid!

After taking a beating in the early rounds, Charley Patton mounts a comeback and battles back against the Son House faction!  It's a battle of Titans!

I can't make an educated vote here, because i haven't heard any Patton recordings, although I've read plenty about him.   I'm a huge Son House fan, but will have to stay out of this fracas.  Just wanted to chime in to say how much I'm enjoying the debate.....

Chilly



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-- Posted by NotSonHouse on 5:52 pm on June 18, 2001

Calt & Wardlow?? Talk about two clowns!! To get a real insight into what a loser Calt is, read his story on Skip James. Most readers can't get past the first few chapters. According to Calt, Skip James was the only REAL bluesman to come along. Wardlow? Well, he knows his thoughts on history, but knows squat about music.
Yes! Son House learned a lot from Patton, as did many others. He was one of the first. As to skill? His guitar playing is alright, but nothing to write home about. Vocals? Well, that doesn't need to be touched upon. Don't get me wrong. I love Patton, have all his stuff, and perform many of his songs. Just that Son House has twice the power. Just listen to 'Death Letter', then tell me what Patton did that comes close.



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-- Posted by 1934 on 4:23 am on June 19, 2001

Try "Down The Dirt Road Blues"  or even "Green River Blues".  & to quote Son House speaking about Patton: "He wasn't no musicianer, 'cause he clowned too much.  You see, Blues ain't for no clownin, It's sincere, like Christian music.  That clownin' part spoil out the blues part, the Blues is a sincere heart searchin thing."  Maybe for some, but in the 1920's, before Son House even picked up a guitar, Patton was dazzling audiences at house frolics & barrelhouses with his histronics.  Playing the guitar between his legs, behind his back, with his teeth, remind you of someone named Jimi?  Son House WISHED he could play the guitar the way Patton did.  Patton using it as a drum when the intensity of a barrelhouse Saturday night got so intense, you could not hear the strings, buy you could hear old Charlie singing & keeping the rhythm on the back of his guitar.



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-- Posted by DC Blues on 7:36 am on June 19, 2001

I guess I'm in the minority here, because I prefer Patton. House is more accessable because his recordings have better sound quality, and his voice wasn't as rough as Patton's. But I think that Patton had much more variety - his repertoire went way beyond Delta blues. And I think his voice and recordings have a raw quality to them that is extremely moving.

Don't get me wrong - House was brilliant, and very influential, but I think Patton was much more creative. I really wouldn't call one "better" than the other - that is always subjective and relative, but I have to choose Patton.



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-- Posted by Rustyslide on 1:12 pm on June 21, 2001

I'd just like to point out that Patton's stage tricks are just that: TRICKS. Playing music is about the emotion you rip out of the guitar not where you play it. For the record, I can play behind my head, with my teeth (though I don't, it hurts) slide using a shot glass/beerbottle/pocketknife), but it doesn't make me a better guitarist.

I don't know enough of Patton's stuff to compare him & Son House, so I won't, but stage antics shouldn't enter into it.



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-- Posted by NotSonHouse on 2:06 pm on June 21, 2001

So true Rusty, if all we needed to be good was the ability to act a fool, then we would all be GREAT! Patton was alright, just not that hot. His slide work was all done on his lap as well. I don't even come close to knocking Patton, but as to being on a par with House or Willie Brown, I just don't see it. These three were partners in all sorts back then, Patton was there first, true, but House took it another step.
As to being serious about playing blues, I claim guilty on that note. I will clown with the crowds between songs, and if I am doing some of the hokum style material, then you can call me the class clown. However, if playing some real heartfelt blues, then it's time to be serious and put all that I can into it.



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-- Posted by 1934 on 4:17 am on June 22, 2001

There again, I have to dis-agree completely with both Rustyslide & NotSonHouse completely.  Histronics (basically the stage act) is as much a part of music as the music itself.  Why did people flock to see Jimi Hendrix?  His music alone, NO the total show.  The Who, again, the show is PART of the music.  When recording in the sudio, of course you do not produce the stage antics of a live performance.  But when both you guys go to see a live performance, do you want to see someone sitting & playing a guitar like an automaton?  OR do you want to see a "SHOW"?  I think it is the latter for everyone.  Picture in your minds the scene of a 1930 barrelhouse or jukejoint.  Saturday night, the ONE night of the week you had to party.  Corn whiskey flowing like the Mississippi river itself, 90 degrees inside one of these old buildings, people dancing, partying & having a good old time.  NOW, picture the entertainer, is someone sitting down, strumming & singing gonna fire the people up?  I think NOT!!!! But, someone that is himself moving, jumping around, playing the guitar between his legs, behind his back etc. NOW THAT'S PART OF THE SHOW, & that my friend is what all of us whould want to see.  Remember, these were not the sterile coffee-house white clubs, these were 1930 Mississippi barrelhouses.



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-- Posted by NotSonHouse on 9:14 am on June 22, 2001

1934....There you have it. Personally..I will NOT go to a concert that involves all of the nonsense. Does Clapton act a fool on stage? Nope! Did SRV? Nope. BB King? Nope! Albert King? Nope! Sonny Landreth? Nope! Bob Dylan? Not even.
You will never see a MUSICIAN with one of those headmounted mikes jumping off the stage into the moshpits. Leave all that nonsense to the Backstreet Boys and the rappers, the musicians will only need to rely on TALENT and not theatrics to give a great show.
I don't know what blues musicians you have seen live that involve all of the stage antics you talk of, but they are obviously none that I have ever seen, or even heard of.
As to the jukes of the 30's. Read Honeyboy Edwards, Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood, and other survivors of that era. They paint a somewhat different picture. Yes, the patrons were having a great time, as were the performers. But the emphasis was on the music, to keep the people dancing, not the player!



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-- Posted by HOWLNWOOF on 10:01 am on June 22, 2001

notson...

Touche' sir......
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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby co » Fri Jul 06, 2001 2:19 am

If Charley wasn't a drunk, he'd a put out tighter tunes for sure. Son's style is so deceptively simple, most folk overlook him! Apples and oranges, that's what I say.

I dig Charley for his snap & syncopation. He suffered from bad recordings. Son delivered nuance and panache so incredibly subtle, you could spend a life time just studying his delivery & execution. Both got lots of soul.

They stayed away from Chicago for a good reason.... Tampa Red. Mister Clean & Tight! On a bad day Tampa could smoke 'em both!

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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby notsonhouse » Fri Jul 06, 2001 12:30 pm

Moonchaser...there's a new 3CD release of Charlie Patton out that you should get. Some really great stuff. As to Patton being a drunk, well, Son House was known to consume large quantities of alcohol as well. Seems to me a theme for the old bluesmen.
I ain't bad mouthin Patton at all, just personally think that House is the better of the two. Love playing songs from both, as well as their other partner from the days, Willie Brown. I think that Willies M&O Blues and Future Blues are two of the great songs from the era.
On the Tampa Red topic....sheesh! I don't think anyone will ever hit that status on the National slide work. He wrote the book and then closed it.


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Seems I fell asleep waiting though
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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby laughing boy » Thu Aug 08, 2002 3:24 am

Son House in 1930 was where it's at. Preachin' the Blues is the most insane piece of work ever. Nothing beats my Black Mama or Dryspell Blues or Walking Blues. He was still somewhat good in 1941. But, he did start to go downhill. Watch any video of him. He's messed up from alcohol. I think Son didn't have much of a repetoire but the ones he knew were killer. Patton, I must say reigns supreme in my book. I love Pattons FLAWLESS guitar and his voice. He didn't have a boring song, period. Son on the other hand would recycle the same lyrics and stumble over a lot of reused guitar tricks (in his later stuff.) Yes, his intensity was almost always on full. So, Patton it is. Son may be called the father, but Patton is the seed and the King!

"Make it lonesome now 'cause I'm a hobo myself sometimes"
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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby hashtaff » Thu Aug 08, 2002 4:28 am

>"Son House in 1930 was where it's at. Preachin' the Blues is
>the most insane piece of work ever. Nothing beats my Black
>Mama or Dryspell Blues or Walking Blues."

LB, how the Hell can you know so much at sixteen?
I'm three times that old and am miles behind you. Good on yer son .

"with blues, each new discovery is another piece in the jig-saw puzzle"
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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby badfinger » Thu Aug 08, 2002 6:52 am

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Aug-08-02 AT 03:04 AM (CST)]I think it's a daft question!

What's best - apples or oranges? mangos or bananas? Bing Crosby or Sinatra? Peter Green or Laurie Taylor? My cricket bat or your football....

In other words, it's only valid as a "who-do-you-like-best..." question.

(Except of course, Son House was worth at least ten Pattons).

ps: for pity's sake, there's another one going on next door about HW and MW!!



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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby laughing boy » Fri Aug 09, 2002 12:28 am

Been around the blues all my life, maybe because Charlie Patton was the first music I ever heard, I put him ontop. But overall, Charlie and Son are different and yes Son was insanely jealous of Patton. He would say Willie brown was twice better than Patton when every person I've read an interview with would say Willie wasn't as good as Charlie. Son changed his style in the 40's to sound more like Patton i.e. all of those droning repetitive cuts on the library of congress recordings. He clearly changed his style to mimic Patton, it didnt work. He stuck to his own style on songs like "Depot Blues" and "County Farm Blues" (which is a neato slide tribute to Lemon.) Patton is king woohoo!

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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby blueswriter » Fri Aug 09, 2002 1:41 am

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Aug-08-02 AT 10:21 PM (CST)]"He's messed up from alcohol."

Hmmm... I'd wonder if elderly age might have had something to do with that "messed up" state you think Son House was in. Also, it's been documented that he wasn't particularly in his realm playing before television cameras. He was seemingly in another world (which he was, it's been called culture shock). As for Son stumbling over guitar parts, maybe you're referring to his 1960's material when he was actually re-learning what he'd done years before. He hadn't played guitar in many a year when he was found in Rochester, NY, and didn't even own a guitar at the time, if memory serves me correctly. Alan Wilson (of Canned Heat fame) was the one who was basically responsible for helping Son get back into playing shape. And as to him going downhill in 1941, and the videos you've seen him in, those are from the 1960's, as I'm sure you're aware.

Patton was great, there's no question about that, and he was certainly at the forefront of blues recording, though not the first. But saying he was the absolute best, hands-down winner is like saying Little Walter or Muddy weren't really that great because they copied from the band format that John Lee Williamson and others had used before them. Patton also recycled chord progressions and songs, as did Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy, Sonny Boy, Wolf, and ANY other blues artist... either their own or someone else's, except for those who might have had one shot in a recording studio. And Patton, shortly before his death, was still strong, but certainly not as good as what he'd done before he began a downward spiral. Same for Little Walter, Muddy, Wolf, Hooker, Hopkins, B.B. King... compare any of their later recordings to what they'd done a decade or few before. Then let us know if you think any of their later material holds a candle to their groundbreaking work from the 1940's or '50's.

It's all subjective as to who a favorite is of someone. Because of that, I won't say who was better...


Son House.


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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby laughing boy » Sat Aug 10, 2002 2:57 am

Never thought of it that way. I just wondered why none of the other rediscoveries, John Hurt, Bukka, etc. weren't so weird and rambly as him. Y'know all that "27 books in the old testament...devil vs. church" nonsense. The 1941 stuff is great, but you can tell he's slipping a little.

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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby blueswriter » Sat Aug 10, 2002 3:19 am

As for why other rediscovered artists like Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt didn't seem to be rambling or erratic; those guys continued to play from the early days until they were located for the boom that occured in blues during the 1960's. Son pretty much gave up playing guitar, I believe, around the time Willie Brown died. House was also asked to "act" for the cameras because of his bouncing between blues and religion many years before, something that had been documented by numerous researchers prior to his rediscovery. That's why the existing film of him has both religious and blues offerings, and with a keen eye, watch them again. He was still the pinnacle of "deep blues" in the film, regardless of how many years had passed; once into a song, you can see his eyes roll back in his head, a face wracked with emotion, and the essence of Delta power. Even though in his 60's at the time, he still delivered the goods, without question. The rambling you spoke of was when he was doing what the directors requested, acting. Otherwise, he's the passion knob turned up to eleven!

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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby drmojo » Sat Aug 10, 2002 4:07 am

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Aug-10-02 AT 00:08 AM (CST)]I agree, Blueswriter, although I didn't know about the "acting" part and hadn't heard that before ...

Furry Lewis is another person who was rediscovered (having worked, I believe, as a streetsweeper for years) but it turned out he hadn't put the guitar down and his Fantasy label album Shake 'Em On Down (?) is essential blues stuff.

Having said that, I think Son House's situation is summed up in several issues: (1) He really hadn't played guitar in years and years, (2) He was the archetype of blues players who had a true battle in their soul -- their soul being the deepest crossroads there is -- and the cultural/social stigma of playing blues vs. religion is something we can't appreciate from this distance culturally. It must have been a hell of a war, so to speak. I invite anyone to watch Searching For Robert Johnson when one of his former girlfriends starts on a run about how ANYbody who plays the blues has sold their soul to the Devil hisself. Hammond admits he plays blues and she basically says, "Well, ain't you sold your soul to the Devil?" as in it's an undisputed fact.

Finally, I think the most chilling moment in blues recorded history (video now) is the way Son House goes nuts when he plays, a stark contrast to the rambling, quiet mumblings that went before. I don't think it was scripted in that sense -- it was a real window into the power, depth, and conflict of the blues.

Besides, as one additional thought here, I think Son House's "sloppy" guitar work and performance is deeper and more powerful than a half dozen blues players I could mention who are technically astonishing but are hollow inside.

Moj

back to add this p.s.:

See you in the chatroom, Blueswriter -- and anyone else interested -- Sunday night at 9pm CST!

moj
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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby blueswriter » Sat Aug 10, 2002 9:21 am

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Aug-10-02 AT 06:27 AM (CST)]Hey Doc...

I'll have to see if I can find where I read that part about Son being asked to play up the Devil's music versus his belief in God for the crowd a little, but I hope I didn't infer that he was acting throughout the length of the film. Your comment about how Son went nuts playing after quietly mumbling is exactly true. After reading the tidbit where someone said he was "helped" along with what to say, I went back and watched the video and the inference was solidified by seeing his uncomfortable nature when speaking, and a complete reversal in approach when he reared back and opened his soul. And whether it was "Preachin' Blues" or "Grinnin' In Your Face," he was on his turf then and not talking to try and let people see what he had battled with. His association to both sides should have been clearly evident to anyone within earshot of his voice, even if they couldn't see him.

Furry Lewis' "Shake 'Em On Down" is essential and he was another who continued to play throughout the years. Remember him in the film "W.W. & The Dixie Dance Kings" with Burt Reynolds?

And I'll be aboard for Sunday night, no doubts. Had a great time last week!

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RE: Charlie Patton vs. Son House

Postby houndog » Sat Aug 10, 2002 11:44 pm

Interesting comments.

I tend to think that Charlie Patton would have put on a great show, I also think that white audiences have tended to demand certain ways of behaving , like sit down performances from (black) performers.

What we may be doing here is seperating off the "tent show " aspect of Papa Charlie from his music,to him they would have been the same part of his performance.

And I don't hear him throwing his guitar about on his records.......

Anyway aren't we lucky to have them both !

adios,
Lovat.
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