Over the past seven years, I've had the outlandishly talented country blues singer and guitarist Charley Patton looking over me. (Don't know Charley Patton? Hear him here and then buy what may be the greatest CD box set ever.) For many years, a photo of Patton was as hard to come by as a pic of Robert Johnson, and — as with Johnson — the legitimacy of the image has been challenged. For our purposes today, let's assume that this is Patton.
I draw your attention to his left hand, how it is posed over the frets like crab legs. Patton's style has always felt a bit eccentric compared to other country blues purveyors, and I wonder whether he might have fingered the frets in an unusual way, too. Now I know there are plenty of other guitarists from the 1920s and 1930s who have posed in similar ways, but I wonder: does this photo reveal something about Patton's style. I know there are a lot of guitarists here (hey, the guy who let me in here builds 'em), so I'm eager to hear any theories, no matter how dubious. And to learn more about the fellow in the photograph, see R. Crumb's comix history of Patton.