In Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer Robert Palmer clarifies why Robert Johnson has been honored with the title of King of the Delta Blues Singers while Charlie Patton has been long known as the Founder of the Delta Blues and the real King of the delta blues.
There are some great details in the book and I won’t spoil that for readers but the essence is that Charlie Patton’s recordings easily predated Robert Johnson (Charlie Patton was already a popular blues singer in 1911 when Robert Johnson was born) but the quality of the recordings was not preserved well and Robert Johnson had simplified some of the music. The combination of simplification and availability made Robert Johnson much more accessible to the masses in the 60’s blues revival.
Robert Palmer also mentions that Yazoo records founder Nick Perls did some significant work in collecting hard blues and spectacular guitar playing of Charlie Patton on the CD “Founder of the Delta Blues“. Palmer goes on to mention that the CD “King of the Delta Blues” highlights a more complete overview of Patton’s work which includes country breakdowns, pre-blues ballads and gospel tunes. Finally Palmer adds that the CD “Masters of the Delta Blues: The Friends of Charlie Patton” along with either “Founder of the Delta Blues” or “King of the Delta Blues” provides “the finest introduction to pre-Robert Johnson delta blues imaginable“.
I need to mention that if you’re a blues music fan these early recordings will provide hours of entertainment but all of this information was gathered off of two pages of the book Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer. If you’re into knowing the stories behind artists, songs and the blues you’ll love the book. The title of the book itself is summarized in a fascinating read about R.L. Burnside and how chaos and the blues seem to go together. Robert Palmer believed this so completely that he carried a mojo hand to keep him safe during R.L. Burnside recording sessions!
Some of these recordings are hard to find so here are some links to Amazon.com to help you track them down. Also I noted that the Charlie Patton recordings mentioned have good previews and can be obtained free as part of your free downloads by signing up for a no risk e-music trial subscription. I have to say I really enjoy eMusic and the enhanced song previews and the reduced clutter by downloading my music and I think you will too.