Charley's Dictionary


Charley's Life

Charley's Photos

Charley's Life Photos

Charley's Lyrics

Charley's Dictionary

Charley's Daughter






Ah, take my picture, hang it up in Jackson wall - Jackson's was a disreputable old-time saloon or bawdyhouse. Kind of like a bar

Banty Rooster - A rooster that is known as a barred Banty because of the black bars all across his body and for its red cockscomb. A cockscomb is the flap of skin on top on the rooster's head.
Bell it shines like gold - Could be a bell on a steamboat. I couldn't find any information on it. Also see "Smokestack is black" and "Lord, I think I heard the Helena/Taylor whistle"
Bertha Lee - Recorded on January 31, 1934 in New York City. This tune, along with "Yellow Bee," was recorded at Patton's last recording session. He died two months later. Bertha Lee was Patton's common-law wife at the time. Lee appears to be lecturing Patton, who was an inveterate womanizer, with her sultry voice. In the fourth verse Lee sings: "I remember a day when I were livin' at Lula town, I remember a day when I were livin' at Lula town, my man did so many wrong things 'til I had to leave the town." Lee was from Lula, Mississippi and Patton lived there with her for a period of time. One can only wonder what Patton did that they had to leave.
Belzoni - Belzoni is a city located in Humphreys County, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta region. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 2,663. It is the county seat of Humphreys County. It was named for the 19th century Italian archaeologist/explorer Giovanni Battista Belzoni.
Belzoni jail - Belzoni jail, where Patton spent a brief period in early January 1934. From there, it was on to New York for what turned out to be his final session before his death in April of that year.
Blytheville - A city (1990 pop. 22,906), seat of Mississippi co., NE Ark., near the Mississippi River; inc. 1891. It is the trading center for a cotton area; soybeans and feed crops also are grown. The city also produces transportation equipment, plastic products, and canned foods. A wildlife refuge is nearby.
Boll Weevil - Often misspelled as Boll weavil. The boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) is a beetle measuring an average length of six millimeters . The insect crossed the Rio Grande near Brownsville, Texas to enter the United States from Mexico in 1892 and reached southeastern Alabama in 1915. It remains the most destructive cotton pest in North America. By the mid 1920's it had entered all cotton growing regions in the U.S. On December 11, 1919, the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama erected a monument to the boll weevil, the pest that devastated their fields but forced residents to end their dependence on cotton and to pursue mixed farming and manufacturing.
By and by - After a while; soon.

Clarksdale - Clarksdale suffered a serious fire in 1899. Clarksdale is a city located in Coahoma County, Mississippi. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 20,645. It is the county seat of Coahoma County. Clarksdale was the home town of singer Sam Cooke, legendary bluesmen Muddy Waters and Big Jack Johnson and was the summer home of Tennessee Williams. Clarksdale is the official birthplace of the blues and is home to the internationally known Delta Blues Museum and "the crossroads", where some believe Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the stroke of midnight in exchange for the ability to play the blues. Clarksdale is also the home of actor Morgan Freeman and boasts his five star restaurant Madidi's and his blues club Ground Zero.
Come a storm last night an' tore the wire down - See "Hello central, the matter with your line?"
Cooling board - A cooling board is a board used to present a dead body. In winter months it would be impossible to bury the dead, so the body is wrapped and propped in a barn until the ground thaws out. Referenced in a number of blues songs.

Doe - See "Doney"
Doney - A slang word for a woman with low morals.
Don't you know it'll break her heart, know, my livin' this-a way? - Directed towered his Mother; He felt guilty for his action.


Flagging - It means to flag down a car or to stop a car.

Green River - The Green River of Tennessee is one of the main streams of Wayne County. Wayne County, in the southwestern corner of Middle Tennessee along the Alabama line, is one of the state's largest counties in area but is very sparsely populated. Most of the county is located on the Southern Highland Rim, an area of hills, ridges, and narrow stream valleys that is largely underlain by Paleozoic limestone. The Green River rises about seven miles southeast of the Wayne County seat of Waynesboro and flows northwest into that town, which is almost bisected by it, and then flows generally almost due north, albeit by a fairly meandering course, to its confluence with the Buffalo River just south of the Wayne County - Perry County line. It is the source of the Waynesboro municipal water supply. The river lives up to its name, often showing a deep bluish-green color, especially in its downstream reaches. The area it drains, while perhaps not spectacular, nonetheless is very scenic, with many small waterfalls and cascades and numerous springs.
Greenville - Greenville. City (1990 pop. 45,226), seat of Washington co., W Miss., on Lake Ferguson, a deepwater harbor adjoining the Mississippi River; inc. 1886. It is the trade, processing, and shipping center of the Mississippi-Yazoo delta, a fertile region producing soybeans, oats, corn, timber, and especially cotton. Livestock is raised. Greenville is also an industrial city, and its many manufactures include processed foods and wood, metal, rubber, and paper products. A Native American mounds historic site is nearby.

He might be-a coming - Most likely he means Jesus.
Hello central, the matter with your line? - Central is a train line. There must have been a storm that cause a power faleure.
Hey, Lord have mercy on my wicked soul - He might have felt guilty for the women, alcohol and tobacco.
High Water Everywhere - The 1927 flood struck the lower Mississippi River, displacing at least 700,000 and shattering the notion that river engineering had eliminated the threat of flooding from the Lower Mississippi Valley. This event left a lasting imprint on American politics, society, and on management strategies for the Mississippi and other U.S. rivers. Until 1927, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had pursued a flood-control strategy of “levees only”, according to which secondary channels and outlets had been sealed and upstream reservoir eschewed in favor of mammoth embankments separating the river channel from its floodplain. The Mississippi started rising in August, 1926, passed flood stage at Cairo, Illinois on New Year's Day, 1927, and remained in flood for as long as 153 consecutive days. The flood shattered levees from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, inundating 27,000 square miles of land. The City of New Orleans was spared, but at the cost of dynamiting levees and intentionally flooding the poor and politically disenfranchised parishes downstream. Until that time, the U.S. Federal government had left relief from natural disasters in local and private hands, but the scope of the 1927 flood disaster was such that the government was forced to step in, ushering in the subsequent era of growing Federal involvement in disaster relief and recovery. The relief effort was massive but uneven, with inequities largely falling along racial lines. The 1927 flood also resulted in a sea change in strategies for flood control and river management in the U.S. With the old “levees only” policy definitely swept away, there gradually emerged the multifaceted structural approach that remains in place today. Although levees remain the keystone of the flood-control system for the Mississippi and other rivers, the Corps of Engineers yielded to pressure to include meander cutoffs, flood outlets, upstream reservoirs, and other measures. This presentation will outline the physical nature of the 1927 flood, the immediate impacts and responses to the disaster, and its lasting impacts on politics and society.

I been to the Nation, oh Lord, but I couldn't stay there - Nation, the "Indian Nation" now Oklahoma, a nineteenth century term.
I like the pumpkin pie - It could be literal and a metaphor, I'm unsure.
I'll meet you over the other shore - In other words "I'll meet you in Heaven"
I'll never ever see you anymore - See "I'm on my way to heaven"
I'm a Christian - He was a religious man.
I'm a poor old boy and I'm a long way from home - I guess it really speaks for its self.
I'm goin' where the Southern cross the Dog - The junction of the Southern and the Dog Yazoo & Mississippi Valley railroad lines.
I'm on my way to heaven - He knew he was going to die soon. He put the message in many of his songs. Oh, Death for an example.
I said take me home to that shiny star - See "I'll meet you over the other shore"
I think I heard the Pea Vine when it blowed - See "Pea Vine"

Jackson road - At about 3:45 p.m. on May 15, 1863, the head of Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton's Army of Vicksburg reached this point, having marched here from the Jackson road, about 2 miles to the southwest, after discovering that the Lower Baker's Creek Bridge was washed out and the stream unfordable because of the flood caused by the storms of the previous day. The army's wagon train marched on the direct road to Edwards (the Jackson road), but it did not reach this point until about 2:00 a.m. on May 16, the day of the Battle of Champion Hill. Has nothing to do with Patton but it gives the history of it.
Jersey Bull - A small, honey-brown breed of dairy cattle, the Jersey is renowned for the high butterfat content of its milk, as well as a genial disposition. As its name implies, the Jersey was bred on the British Channel Island of Jersey. It apparently descended from cattle stock brought over from the nearby Norman mainland, and was first recorded as a separate breed around 1700. Since 1789, imports of foreign cattle into Jersey have been forbidden by law to maintain the purity of the breed, although exports of cattle and semen have been an important economic resource for the island.
Jesus' is going to make up my dying bed - See "I'm on my way to heaven"
Jim lee - I haven't found much information of him.
Joiner - Populated Place in Mississippi County, Arkansas.


Leland - Leland is a city located in Washington County, Mississippi. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 5,502.
Let's trade this forty - Means 40 acres.
Level hill - It means to be grounded.
Like a tree planted by the water - It's a metaphor meaning to have strength in Christianity.
Look what the lord has done - See "I'm on my way to heaven"
Lord, I know, I know I, I don't have long - See "I'm on my way to heaven"
Lord, I think I heard the Helena/Taylor whistle - There are two sets of lyrics; it's not clear what he said. It might be a steamboat or a train named after the city of Helena or Taylor.
Lula - Patton lived in Lula, Mississippi when he wrote the song. Lula is a town located in Coahoma County, Mississippi. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 370.
Lula well was gone dry - In 1930, Charlie Patton entered the studio to record another lament of nature's wrath, "Dry Well," a song that depicted the 1930 drought. Seen together the two blues songs suggest the ebbs and flows of the Delta's past and present, the pattern by which natural forces have created a rich and diverse region that has been both blessed by wealth and powerful expression, and also burdened by human suffering and despair.

Magnolia - The magnolia is the official state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana.
Marion - Marion is a town located in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 1,305.
Move my pillow - I couldn't find any information on the meaning of this.
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall - It's a reference to the penis.
My mama is dead - He's made a few references about the death of his mother. He loved his mother very much and was deeply affected by her death.

Natchez - Natchez is a city located in Adams County, Mississippi. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 18,464. It is the county seat of Adams County. It was founded in 1716 and is the southern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The terrain around Natchez on the Mississippi side of the river is rather hilly. The city sits on a high bluff above the Mississippi river and in order to reach the riverbank one must travel down a steep road to the landing called Silver Street. This is in marked contrast to the flat lowland found across the river surrounding the city of Vidalia, Louisiana. Natchez is known for its many Antebellum mansions and estates, built by 19th century plantation owners who would often own farmland in Louisiana but locate their homes on the higher ground in Mississippi. The City of Natchez boasts that today it has more antebellum houses than anywhere in the United States, partly due to the fact that during the American Civil War Natchez was spared the destruction of many other Southern cities, such as Vicksburg. According to legend, the planter population, which has largely disappeared since the early 19th century, once made the city the wealthiest in the United States.
Now they're in hard luck together, 'cause rain don't pour nowhere - See "Lula well was gone dry

Oh, death done stole my mother and gone - See "My mama is dead"
On my way to glory - Most likely meaning "On my way to heaven"

Parchman - Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm, is the oldest prison and the only maximum security prison in the state of Mississippi, USA. It is located on 18,000 acres 73 in Parchman, Mississippi, and was built in 1901. It has beds for 4840 inmates and houses all male offenders sentenced to death in Mississippi. Inmates work on the prison farm and in manufacturing workshops. There are a number of Blues songs written about Parchman Farm, and several Blues musicians were imprisoned there, including Leadbelly, Bukka White (who wrote 'Parchman Farm Blues'), and Eddie 'Son' House.
Pea Vine - The Pea Vine was the name of a Mississippi train on the "Dog" railroad line. See "I'm goin' where the Southern cross the Dog"
Purvis Harvey - Didn't find any information.


Red River - River, 1,222 mi (1,967 km) long, southernmost of the large tributaries of the Mississippi River. It rises in two branches in the Texas Panhandle and flows SE between Texas and Oklahoma and between Texas and Arkansas to Fulton, Ark. It then turns southward, enters Louisiana, and crosses SE to the Atchafalaya and the Mississippi rivers. In Texas it flows rapidly through a canyon in semiarid plains, but later in its course it waters rich red-clay farm lands (whence the name Red). Dams on the river include the Denison Dam (completed 1943), which impounds Lake Texoma, one of the largest reservoirs in the United States. For many years navigation was difficult on the lower course of the Red River due to fallen trees that floated downstream and collected behind obstructions, forming rafts. The Great Raft, a 160-mi (257-km) log-jam built through the centuries, was cleared from the river in the mid-1800's. The river is now navigable for small ships to above Natchitoches, La. There are many lakes along the lower part of the river, and reservoirs serve as flood-control units on its tributaries. Reins - Side reins are made of leather or webbing, and have several rings or holes for buckles along their length. Because the side reins fold back on themselves and reattach to their own rings or buckles, the handler can easily adjust their length. Side reins may be solid, or they may have an elastic or rubber ring insert. The latter two have more "give" to them, which is useful for sensitive horses or horses that throw their heads. Elastic inserts must be used with caution, as some horses start to lean on them. Solid side reins are sometimes preferred because they tend to give the horse a more solid contact to work in to.
Revenue Man - A Government officials commissioned to seek out and destroy illegal liquor distilleries during the times of the Prohibition. Also, possibly, the man who collects the rent, taxes or some other payments that are due.
Roller - It means a car.

Sharkey County - Sharkey County is a county located in the state of Mississippi. As of 2000, the population is 6,580. Its county seat is Rolling Fork. It is named after William L. Sharkey.
Shetland - Is a type of horse.
Smokestack is black - Most likely the smokestack on a steamboat or a train.
Spoonful - A spoonful of cocaine
Stone Pony - A bum Horse
Stovall - A small town in Mississippi most likely named after Peter Simpson Stovall who was State Treasurer of Mississippi from 1912 to 1916.
Sunflower - Sunflower is a town located in Sunflower County, Mississippi. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 696.

Tallahatchie - Tallahatchie County is a county located in the U.S. state of Mississippi. As of 2000, the population is 14,903. Its county seats are Charleston and Sumner. The county was founded on December 31, 1833. Tallahatchie is an Indian name meaning Rock River and the county is one of ten in Mississippi with two county seats, Charleston and Sumner. Charleston was the first county seat, and Sumner was organized later in 1872.
Tom Day - Tom Day had been the predecessor in office. This couplet undoubtedly remarks on the procedure of taking seized liquor to the county courthouse in order to establish proof of an illegal still. Mississippi was a dry state well beyond WW 2.
Tom Rushen - Tom Rushen was the town sheriff of Merigold, Mississippi, around the time Patton recorded this song.
Turn my bed around - See "Move my pillow"


Vicksburg - A city of western Mississippi on bluffs above the Mississippi River west of Jackson. During the Civil War it was besieged from 1862 to 1863 and finally captured by troops led by Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. Population: 26,000.

Well, backwater done rose all around Sumner now - There was a huge flood in Mississippi in 1927. Sumner is a town located in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 407,
Will Dockery - It's a plantation in Mississippi. Will Dockery started farming near Ruleville and Cleveland, Mississippi. At one time, Charley Patton, Son House, and Willie Brown, all extremely important Blues originators, lived at Dockery. Dockery Farms is the birthplace of the Delta blues. Dockery's, where Charley was to spend about half his life, was, like many plantations in the Mississippi Delta, less a farm than a self-sufficient community with its own commissary, post office, blacksmith's shop, railroad deport, school, churches and graveyard. It even issued its own money.
Willie Brown - Born right in the heart of the blues in Clarksdale, Mississippi, he played with such notables as Charley Patton, Son House, and Robert Johnson.


Yonder - Being at an indicated distance, usually within sight: "Yonder hills, he said, pointing."
You can plant your cotton and you won't get a half a bale - See "Boll Weevil"