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Bertha Lee

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Biography

Bertha Lee Pate, known as Bertha Lee, was a blues vocalist active in the 1920s and 1930s most famous for recording with and being the common-law wife of Charlie Patton.

Biography

When she was young, Lee’s family moved to Lula, Mississippi. Lee met Patton in 1930 and remained his wife until his death in 1934. She was half his age. During this time, she sang on twelve of Patton’s recordings, which resulted in the recording of three of her own songs, “Yellow Bee”, “Dog Train Blues”, and “Mind Reader Blues.” Patton accompanies her on guitar for these numbers.

Her relationship with Patton was a turbulent one. At one time, both of them were incarcerated in a Belzoni, Mississippi, jailhouse after a particularly harsh fight (Patton recounts this story in “High Sheriff Blues”).
In 1933, the couple settled in Holly Ridge, Mississippi, and in 1934, they travelled to New York for what would be Patton’s final sessions (on January 30 and February 1). They later returned to Holly Ridge and Lee saw Patton out in his final days, as he died of a heart ailment on April 28, 1934.
Little else is known of Lee, and her recordings with Patton are the only documents of her voice.

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