Baby Tate (Charles Henry Tate)

by Preston Cooper and Jameykay Young, UNC Asheville students

 


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Photo credit: Photograph by Sudy L. Bristol. From Sheldon
Harris's Blues Who's Who (Arlington House, 1979).

Full name: Charles Henry Tate

Nicknames/Recorded Under: Baby Tate

Born: Jan. 28, 1916, Elberton, GA
Died: Aug. 17, 1972 (some sources say 1977), Columbia, SC

Instrument(s): Guitar (and vocals)

Biographical Sketch

Baby Tate mostly performed as a sideman throughout his career of half a decade. Although he was born in Georgia, Baby Tate grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. By the age of 14, he had taught himself to play guitar; shortly thereafter he began appearing alongside Blind Boy Fuller, from whom he picked up the basics of the blues. A few years later, Tate began performing with Roosevelt Brooks and Joe Walker in clubs and bars around Greenville. In 1932, he discontinued his collaboration with Brooks and Walker and joined the Carolina Blackbirds. They played numerous shows for the radio station, WFBC. During the 1930s, Tate played at local parties, medicine shows, and celebrations, and  he continued performing as a mere hobby. Serving in the U.S. Army in the late 1930s and early '40s, Tate entertained in local pubs and dances while stationed in Europe. In 1942, he returned to Greenville, held a series of odd jobs, and took up music again in 1946, when he commenced appearing on the local blues club scene. He recorded for the Kapp label of Atlanta four years later. In the early 1950s, Tate moved to Spartanburg SC, performing by himself as well as with Pink Anderson. The two remained a duo until the 1970s. Tate recorded his first and only album, See What You Done Done, in 1961. He was featured in Samuel Charters' documentary film, The Blues the very next year.  In 1972, along with Peg Leg Sam on mouth harp, Tate recorded more sessions. He died on August 17 of that same year due to a heart attack.

Books

Bastin, Bruce. Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986. p. 492.

Bastin, Bruce. Crying for the Carolines. London, Studio Vista, 1971. (brief mention)

Charters, Ann, and Samuel Charters. Blues Faces: A Portrait of the Blues. Boston: David R. Godine, 2000.

Cooper, Peter. Hub City Music Makers. Spartanburg, SC: Holocene Publishing, June 1997, p.152.

Harris, Sheldon. Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1979. p. 103.

Films

The Blues. Written and directed by Samuel Charters. Released by Macmillan Films, 1973. 21 min. 16 mm. Color. Documents the music and the environment of blues singing in the urban and rural areas of the South. Includes music sung and played by J. D. Short, Baby Tate, Memphis Willie B., Gus Cannon, and Sleepy John Estes. Available at UNC Chapel Hill Libraries.

Liner Notes

Charters, Samuel. Liner notes accompanying The Blues of Baby Tate: See What You Done Done. Berkeley, CA : Prestige/Bluesville OBCCD-567-2, 1994

Recordings on CD

The Blues of Baby Tate: See What You Done Done. Recorded 1962. Prestige OBCCD-567-2

Web Sites

Illustrated Baby Tate Discography. Accessed Sept. 26, 2005. <www.wirz.de/music/tatebaby.htm>

mp3.com/Baby Tate. <http://www.mp3.com/baby~tate/artists/119475/biography.html> Accessed October 13, 2005.

All Music Guide: Baby Tate
<
http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll>

 


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Last updated 31 October 2005.