Henry Sloan

1870-?

This mysterious forefather and likely founder of the delta blues taught Charley Patton everything he knew.

Very little is known about Sloan or his life other than the fact that he lived at Dockery Farms. Even his date of death is a mystery. What is known is that Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Son House, and many others claimed him as their teacher and as the originator of what became the delta blues style.

It’s quite possible that Sloan was the musician W.C. Handy heard playing guitar at train station near Dockery Farms in 1903. In his autobiography, Handy wrote that "a lean, loose-jointed Negro had commenced plucking a guitar beside me while I slept. His clothes were rags; his feet peeped out of his shoes. His face had on it some of the sadness of the ages. As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar. ... The effect was unforgettable... The singer repeated the line ‘Goin' where the Southern cross the Dog’ three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard."

 

Sources: Robert Palmer's definitive Deep Blues, Wikipedia, AllMusic, NPR's Take Five, The Mississippi Blues Trail, The Ghost of Henry Sloan, and Dr. David Evans.