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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: Stumblin on May 18, 2010, 07:56:16 AM

Title: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Stumblin on May 18, 2010, 07:56:16 AM
Does anyone know the source for the much quoted Son House denunciation of Charley Patton as "a jerk?"
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Bunker Hill on May 18, 2010, 10:58:12 AM
This crops up in internet "biographies" and I know it has has been questioned/challenged before. In the meantime we will just have to await Dan Beaumont's Son House biography to learn the truth about whether or not he referred to Patton a jerk", eh?  Unless Jeff Harris can get Dan's take on it for us.  >:D
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Lyle Lofgren on May 18, 2010, 02:05:37 PM
Maybe this belongs in an earlier thread about questions you'd ask dead blues players if you had the chance.

Maybe it's a good thing that musicians have left their music behind through the magic of recording, but not their personalities.

Lyle
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: uncle bud on May 18, 2010, 08:55:39 PM
I prefer "squabblin' scuttlebub" to jerk.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Stumblin on May 19, 2010, 12:01:36 AM
This crops up in internet "biographies" and I know it has has been questioned/challenged before. In the meantime we will just have to await Dan Beaumont's Son House biography to learn the truth about whether or not he referred to Patton a jerk", eh?  Unless Jeff Harris can get Dan's take on it for us.  >:D
Okay, thanks for this and the other answers.
I'd heard this quote attribution before, but it had slipped my mind until it cropped up in the Weenie top-of-page-random-quote bar. Its appearance there conferred some legitimacy on it, as I tend to regard this forum as comparatively authoritative!
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Bunker Hill on May 19, 2010, 01:24:32 AM
I've looked at the earliest published interviews conducted with House 1964-6 (Julius Lester, Al Wilson, John  Fahey etc) and in all of them there's nothing but praise for Patton. However, I think the reference is taken from Cub Koda?s Son House entry in the published All Music Guide (mine is 1999) which reads:

"Though House would later refer in interviews to Patton as a "jerk" and other unprintables, it was Patton's success as a bluesman - both live and especially on record - that got Son's foot in the door as a recording artist. He followed Patton up to Grafton, WI, and recorded a handful of sides for the Paramount label."

How much "later" is later and to whom?
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Stumblin on May 19, 2010, 05:50:12 AM
I've looked at the earliest published interviews conducted with House 1964-6 (Julius Lester, Al Wilson, John  Fahey etc) and in all of them there's nothing but praise for Patton. However, I think the reference is taken from Cub Koda?s Son House entry in the published All Music Guide (mine is 1999) which reads:

"Though House would later refer in interviews to Patton as a "jerk" and other unprintables, it was Patton's success as a bluesman - both live and especially on record - that got Son's foot in the door as a recording artist. He followed Patton up to Grafton, WI, and recorded a handful of sides for the Paramount label."

How much "later" is later and to whom?
Thanks, I'd read the Koda blurb on All Music Guide, and was puzzled by the lack of attribution. I'm not really sure who this Koda bloke was, but I understand he snuffed it a few years ago.
I'll do a spot of googling for those other interviews you mentioned.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: jharris on May 19, 2010, 07:12:33 PM
Don't have much to add but Son's biographer says he's pretty sure it's in the Patton biography. Don't have it handy so I can't check.

-Jeff H.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Alexei McDonald on May 19, 2010, 09:10:54 PM
Don't have much to add but Son's biographer says he's pretty sure it's in the Patton biography. Don't have it handy so I can't check.

-Jeff H.

It is there [on p212], but as there's no source given it doesn't take us any further forward.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Bunker Hill on May 19, 2010, 11:53:57 PM
Duh there was I looking through House interviews and it never dawned on me to look at that book.

So, not only a "jerk" but also a "shit-ass". I guess as there's no sorce it's something House said to either Calt or Wardlow.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Stumblin on May 20, 2010, 01:52:31 AM
Don't have much to add but Son's biographer says he's pretty sure it's in the Patton biography. Don't have it handy so I can't check.

-Jeff H.

It is there [on p212], but as there's no source given it doesn't take us any further forward.
Thanks, that's exactly what I was searching for.
I have a scanned black & white pdf of the book, I'd love to get hold of an actual copy so I could read it properly i.e. in comfort on the sofa! But, as it's currently selling for around seventy quid, it looks like I'll have to wait for a reprint.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Rivers on September 18, 2010, 06:58:26 PM
I believe I was the original typist behind that Son House Patton 'jerk' quote in the oracle. I'm pretty sure it came from an article in the late lamented 'Frets' magazine, a few copies of which Mick Knight gifted me when he was cleaning out his stuff in NZ before moving to the States.

I have it here somewhere buried under mountains of... other stuff. If I can find it I will provide further attribution. Failing that, assume I got it from Calt/Wardlow's book which I loaned to someone and never got back.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Stumblin on September 25, 2010, 11:36:52 AM
I have a scanned black & white pdf of the book, I'd love to get hold of an actual copy so I could read it properly i.e. in comfort on the sofa! But, as it's currently selling for around seventy quid, it looks like I'll have to wait for a reprint.
Last month I found a copy via Amazon, a gnat's over ?28, including p&p from across the pond. Imagine how chuffed I was/am. A costly paperback, to be sure, but one of the best reads I think I've ever had.
Having just looked again at the Amazon listings, it's now selling in a price range between ?62.28 and ?108.81 (both inc p&p). So I can sort of feel like I got a bargain.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Rivers on July 11, 2013, 06:57:46 PM
OK, I finally figured out where I got the 'jerk' reference from, with assistance from Stuart, thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

It was Wardlow/Calt, Ch. 1, "Mister Patton", page 19, discussing Patton's clowning around, the full quote is:

"He's just a clownin' guy, that jerk is", House said. "He's good at it though!"

For full attribution you'd have to go to the book and figure out when the interviews were conducted. In this context Son was not being abusive, he was taking liberties referring to Charlie in the way a close friend might.

I originally put the four or five wildly disparate opinions together into a single quote since I thought it was revealing of how his peers viewed him. Hence the snippage, lack of attribution and, yes, artistic license. Here's the whole thing:

"A jerk" (Son House) "A squabblin' scuttlebub" (Hayes McMullen) "A great man" (Bukka White) "A lappy-eared sonofabitch" (Willie Brown) "He was a helluva guy. I was lucky to know him" (Honeyboy Edwards) -  Charlie Patton, remembered

All of these could be affectionate badanage if you don't take them too literally. I hope this throws some light on this long running saga, and also reminds us to provide attribution, even if the attribution ends up being longer than the actual quote.

Now for that Mance quote about electric guitars being a fraud...
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: uncle bud on July 11, 2013, 08:15:14 PM
Too much attribution can ruin a good thing though.  >:D
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Rivers on July 11, 2013, 08:21:07 PM
my thoughts exactly!  8)

By combining various snippets I guess I was trying to bring out the fact that a personality like Patton is always going to polarize opinion. Wardlow & Calt did that brilliantly in their bio, in fact they made it the focus of chapter 1. In other words I just tried to condense chapter 1 into a single quote.

In my opinion the creative way the book is structured is what sets it apart. It brought the whole scene to life for me.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: JohnLeePimp on July 13, 2013, 05:53:58 AM
"A lappy-eared sonofabitch" (Willie Brown)

What? also which Willie Brown, and When?

...and to what end  :P
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: btasoundsradio on July 13, 2013, 03:07:03 PM
Rev Rubin Lacey said something along the lines of Patton was a good guy, I'll see him again.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: wreid75 on July 17, 2013, 01:55:47 PM
From everything I have read he didn't seem any more of a jerk than some of the others.  Calts book on Skip James made him sound like a real jerk but that could be the authors take.  :-\
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Stumblin on July 17, 2013, 04:42:48 PM
From everything I have read he didn't seem any more of a jerk than some of the others.  Calts book on Skip James made him sound like a real jerk but that could be the authors take.  :-\
I got some extremely unfriendly comments on the woodshed forum, a few years ago, for suggesting that Calts Skip James biog had been an interesting read. I was made to feel very unwelcome and have never been, or looked, back.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Rivers on July 17, 2013, 06:26:14 PM
I thought it was an interesting read as well. But reading other accounts from or about the rediscovery era lead me to believe there was a lot of subjectivity in the Skip book, mostly of the negative variety. Which is fine, so long as you balance it with other accounts.

There's a long discussion on here somewhere about this very thing, I'll see if I can find it. Oh here it is: http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=195.0 (http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=195.0)
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: wreid75 on July 17, 2013, 06:47:08 PM
I really liked the book and there is the possibility that it is the only book on Skip we get.  From the book James came across as quite intelligent even if he wasn't cuddly.  I can only imagine how I would act if for 60 years I got treated like dirt by a particular group of people only to have some young cats of that same particular group show up and shower me with attention and start getting me shows.  I would be suspicious as hell initially.  Having cancer on your penis and then having it removed wouldn't help my mood either.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Rivers on July 17, 2013, 08:02:29 PM
Having it put in my biography wouldn't help my mood in the afterlife either. I imagine Skip is chasing Steve Calt around [insert your belief in what the afterlife looks like] with a 22-20, whatever that is.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: wreid75 on July 18, 2013, 08:56:27 AM
 >:D chasing Calt around.........knowing your eternity consists of being chased by Skip James priceless.  The music is most likely outstanding though.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Charleypattonfan1924 on March 02, 2014, 09:45:30 AM
Son house didn't know what the hell he was talking about son house supposedly stole his girl and so there's the facts  :)
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: oddenda on March 02, 2014, 09:00:07 PM
I am surprised that Calt wasn't sued for some of his writings. I guess that Cora Allen never saw his statement on the Blind By Fuller Yazoo LP that "'Black & Tan' was a sexual perversion that Fuller and his wife performed" (memory citation). Many a time he stepped over the boundaries of good taste, often into total fabrication and potential liable. He must be taken with a giant grain of proverbial salt.

Peter B.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Bed Bug Bill on March 08, 2014, 03:36:07 PM
personally,I quite like jerks,some of them anyway.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: bnemerov on March 08, 2014, 09:07:37 PM
Peter B,
Calt was sued...by Dick Waterman. As I recall defamation was the charge. Don't know the outcome though.
best,
bruce

P.S. I got curious (and wanted to check my memory) Searched for this and, lo & behold, a Weenie-thread quoting Waterman who sued Calt and the publisher for libel and lost.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Johnm on March 08, 2014, 09:21:20 PM
Hi all,
I have to admit that I fail to see what is so surprising or objectionable about one musician having personal differences with another--I guess that's never happened before!  Who cares?
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: RB on March 10, 2014, 12:27:20 PM
Well, the reason some--not me--care in this fashion is that the first tendency of some is to treat these figures as hero- or god-like.  That's a mistake of course (and goes with 'fandom'). 

Wouldn't an educated guess suggest that many of these musicians were uncouth? I think so.  But also that rivalry--and envy--would have to be considered in evaluating judgments of these peers so many years after the fact.  And that expectations for the present were also being made by those who were asked about their long dead peers and that would certainly have influenced--both positively and negatively according to the circumstance--their evaluations. 

Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Lyle Lofgren on March 10, 2014, 05:10:54 PM
Cleoma once told me this priceless Jimmy Martin quote: "The problem with bluegrass music is jealousy and stupidy."

I suspect you could say the same thing about some blues performers.

Lyle
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: claudecat on March 10, 2014, 11:54:31 PM
The only thing I can add to this topic, seeing as how Son House (who I met as a youth - talk about scaring the bejeezus out of an 8 year old) is referenced, is that Son was kind of a clown. If you take a look at the Howlin' Wolf documentary, there's a great scene where Wolf basically calls House a drunken old fool and an embarrassment to himself. One of the highlights of the doc. Not that I don't love Son House's music, but he was "irascible" at times.
Title: Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
Post by: Shovel on March 14, 2014, 04:58:32 AM
In Calt's book, Skip James had a response close to:  "Bah! If Patton was alive today, he'd say the same thing about Son House!"

Also, there's a quote in this thread about Rube Lacy saying Patton was a good guy, Bukka White mentioned adoring him.  His personality in his music seems good-natured.  HC Spier seemed to like him.  He seemed able to schmooze/charm his way from plantation to plantation without becoming persona-non-grata due to jerkish behavior.  And Son House is the only person I've heard saying Patton was a jerk or anything else derogatory about him.  Even Skip James complimented Patton in the Calt book and Skip James didn't compliment many from what I've read and heard.

From watching Son House in the room with Howlin Wolf, Skip James, etc. from the Newport festival, I could see him making a one-off comment while drunk that he could have contradicted 5 minutes later depending on his mood.

That said, any quotes from these guys is  a treasure.  Can take them with a grain of salt, but it's great that folks captured some of their thoughts and stories.
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