In the course of his nearly 50-year career, guitarist Baby Tate recorded only a handful of sessions. The bulk of his life was spent as a sideman, playing with musicians like Blind Boy Fuller, Pink Anderson, and Peg Leg Sam.
Born Charles Henry Tate, he was born in Elberton, GA, but raised in Greenville, SC. When he was 14 years old, Tate taught himself how to play guitar. Shortly afterward, he began playing with Blind Boy Fuller, who taught Tate the fundamentals of blues guitar. When he was in his late teens, Baby began playing with Joe Walker and Roosevelt Brooks; the trio played clubs throughout the Greenville area.
In 1932, Tate stopped working with Walker and Brooks, hooking up with Carolina Blackbirds. The duo played a number of shows for the radio station WFBC. For most of the '30s, Baby played music as a hobby, performing at local parties, celebrations, and medicine shows.
Tate served in the U.S. Army in the late '30s and early '40s. While he was stationed in Europe, he played local taverns and dances. In 1942, he returned to Greenville, SC, where he earned a living doing odd jobs around the town. Tate picked up music again in 1946, setting out on the local blues club circuit. In 1950, he cut several sessions for the Atlanta-based Kapp label.
In the early '50s, Baby moved to Spartanburg, SC, where he performed both as a solo act and as a duo with Pink Anderson. Tate and Anderson performed as duo into the '70s.
In 1962, Tate recorded his first album, See What You Done. The following year, he was featured in the documentary film, The Blues. For the rest of the decade, Baby Tate played various gigs, concerts, and festivals across America. With the assistance of harmonica player Peg Leg Sam, Baby Tate recorded another set of sessions in 1972. Later that year, Tate suffered a fatal heart attack. He died on August 17, 1972. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine