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The Traditional Delta and Country Blues

Charlie "Specks" McFadden

Charles Pertum known professionally as Charlie "Specks" McFadden, b. April 24, 1895 in Quincy, Adams County, IL, d. November 15, 1966 in St. Louis, MO, American country blues singer and songwriter. On his relatively limited number of recordings, McFadden was accompanied by Roosevelt Sykes and Lonnie Johnson amongst others. His recordings spanned the years from 1929 to 1937. His most notable title was the self-penned "Groceries on the Shelf (Piggly Wiggly)", which was initially recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin, circa February 1930. There is limited information concerning life outside of his recordings.

Charles Pertum was born in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, United States. He was the son of Maggie Pertum. He used Charles "Speck" Pertum as his name on a couple of his earliest recordings, and also used the nickname "Black Patch", in both cases a reference to his reported "weak eyes". On most of his recordings he opted to use his stepfather's name, McFadden. McFadden moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1921. He was considered to be one of the top blues singers in the city, and waxed his first recordings in 1929. He made friends with the blues pianist, Roosevelt Sykes, and Sykes played on twelve of the 20 tracks which are preserved for posterity. McFadden's most notable number was "Groceries on the Shelf (Piggly Wiggly)", which he wrote himself. He recorded three separate versions of the song, which was covered by Lucille Bogan. Piggly Wiggly is the name of a successful American supermarket chain, operating in the Southern and Midwestern regions of the United States, which first opened in 1916. Another of his tracks was "Gambler's Blues", the title of which he may have been well versed to expound. McFadden was arrested on 13 separate occasions between 1929 and 1935, with ten of those charges being for gambling. Little is known of his existence otherwise. McFadden died in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 15, 1966, aged 71.