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Author Topic: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"  (Read 4377 times)

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Offline Stumblin

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Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« 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?"

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #1 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

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #2 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

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2010, 08:55:39 PM »
I prefer "squabblin' scuttlebub" to jerk.

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #4 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!

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #5 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?
« Last Edit: May 19, 2010, 01:37:36 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #6 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.

Offline jharris

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #7 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.

Offline Alexei McDonald

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #8 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.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #9 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.

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #10 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.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #11 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.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2010, 07:07:02 PM by Rivers »

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #12 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.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #13 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...
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 07:16:21 PM by Rivers »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Charley Patton; "a jerk!"
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2013, 08:15:14 PM »
Too much attribution can ruin a good thing though.  >:D