Dale Patton, 51, founder of Baltimore Blues Society

May 26, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dale Patton, the founding president of the Baltimore Blues Society, died Wednesday of cancer at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 51 and lived in Monkton.

In his 20 years of bringing blues music to Baltimore, he led a group that now has more than 1,000 members who gather five times a year at the Rosedale American Legion Hall to hear nationally known musicians.

"He had the ability to run a major corporation, but he didn't do that. He ran the Blues Society instead, " said Donna Andrews, a friend who lives in Northeast Baltimore. "People were drawn to him; he had their love and allegiance."

Mr. Patton battled and overcame an addiction to drugs and alcohol in the 1990s.

"Through God, he was very proud of beating his addiction," said Dennis Patton, a brother who lives in Farmville, N.C. "He sought a spiritual relationship and joined St. James Church. It became the essence of his life. ... He worked in outreach activities and helped other people."

In the 1970s he was a Fells Point bartender -- at Leadbetter's, the Dead End Saloon and the Fat Chance Saloon, where he also booked blues singers until it closed in 1983. He then formed a company, Burnt Productions, for blues shows at the Famous Ballroom on North Charles Street.

"He came up with the idea, `Why not get a lot of other people involved?'" said Walter Lutz, a friend who lives in Gardenville.

Mr. Patton and other blues lovers decided to form a nonprofit organization to bring musicians to Baltimore. Mr. Patton was its first president and served until 1997. In the early days, the society held its concerts in Meatcutters Hall in Northeast Baltimore.

As membership grew, he accompanied a Baltimore delegation to Memphis, Tenn., for the annual W.C. Handy Awards, named in honor of the composer of the "St. Louis Blues." He led blues-related tours to Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, San Francisco and other places. He also oversaw production of a monthly newsletter.

"He was devoted to resurrecting the blues," said Curt Gough, a member of the Blues Society, who lives in Perry Hall. "He was the volunteer who couldn't say no."

In addition to his volunteer work with the Blues Society, he delivered bulk copies of the City Paper. For the last three years, he headed the music department at the Timonium Bibelot store.

Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., he was raised in Bel Air and attended Bel Air High School. He saw his first blues acts at the Civic Center in the 1960s, and as a young man, he played blues-rock guitar in a garage band, the Blues British.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today at St. James Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, 829 N. Arlington Ave., where he was an active member.

In addition to his brother, he is survived by a niece and nephew.

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