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Blues Time Machine
Patton's "Pony Blues" still kicking
Charley Patton was one of the first to play what we might recognize as Delta blues, putting blues into a strong and syncopated rhythm. A powerful singer with an aggressive guitar style, he was also a masterful entertainer, and one of the best-known traveling performers of his time.
His popularity made him influential, and you can hear that influence in the young blues players who learned directly from him –Son House’s distinctive slide guitar, John Lee Hooker’s hypnotic grooves, and Howlin’ Wolf’s raspy rumbling voice.
He recorded “Pony Blues” at his first recording session in 1929, and it became a big seller. Though badly preserved from the original 78’s, you can hear the intensity of his voice and the genius in his answering guitar lines.
Canned Heat became one of the most popular bands of the late 1960’s, bringing blues to the mainstream. Their 1968 song “Going Up The Country”, a Top 20 Hit, was the unofficial theme song of the Woodstock Festival. Here’s a link to an earlier Blues Time Machine episode about “Going Up The Country”: http://www.kplu.org/post/going-country-and-roots-blues
Started by blues enthusiasts Bob Hite and Alan Wilson, Canned Heat were generally faithful to the songs they covered, but also were one of the early blues groups to explore psychedelic blues. Their 1968 version of “Pony Blues” was the first track on their 1968 release Living The Blues.
Nashville guitarist Mike Henderson is well known for his notable slide work and has played with artists as diverse as The Dixie Chicks, John Hiatt and Tracy Nelson. He released “Pony Blues” in 1996.
Here are the complete versions of “Pony Blues” tracked through time:
Charley Patton “Pony Blues” 1929
Canned Heat “Pony Blues” 1968
Mike Henderson “Pony Blues” 1996