|Ann Cook||Mama Cookie||Sizzling The Blues|
|Wilmer Davis||Gut Struggle||Richard M. Jones and the Blues Singers 1923-1938
|Original Washboard Band & Julie Davis||Geechie River Blues||Johnny Dodds 1927-1928|
|Blanche Johnson||Galveston Blues||Elzadie Robinson Vol. 1 1926-1928
|Ida May Mack||Mr. Forty-Nine Blues||Texas Girls 1926-1929
|Dorothy Everetts||Macon Blues||Female Blues Singers Vol. 6: E/F/G 1922-1928)|
|Madlyn Davis & Her Hot Shots||Kokola Blues||Female Blues Singers Vol. 5 C/D/E 1921-1928|
|Madlyn Davis & Her Hot Shots||Winter Blues||Female Blues Singers Vol. 5 C/D/E 1921-1928|
|Bertha Ross||Lost Man Blues||Barrelhouse Woman Vol. 1 1925-1930|
|Dolly Martin||All Men Blues||St. Louis Barrelhouse Piano 1929-1934|
|Luella Miller||Frisco Blues||Luella Miller 1926-1928
|Viola McCoy||I Ain't Gonna Marry, Ain't Gonna Settle Down||Viola McCoy Vol. 2 1924-1926|
|Edith Wilson||Evil Blues||Ain't Gonna Settle Down: The Pioneering Blues of Mary Stafford and Edith Wilson|
|Edna Winston||I Got A Mule To Ride||Leona Williams & Edna Winston 1922-1927|
|Sylvester Hannah||Michigan River Blues||Fletcher Henderson & The Blues Singers 1923-1924|
|Margaret Carter||I Want Plenty Grease In My Frying Pan||Vaudeville Blues|
|Ora Alexander||Rider Needs a Fast Horse||Female Blues Singers Vol. 1 A/B 1924-1932
|Maggie Jones||North Bound Blues||Maggie Jones Vol. 1 1923-1925|
|Monette Moore||House Rent Blues||Monette Moore Vol. 1 1923-1924
|Ruby Gowdy||Florida Flood Blues||Female Blues Singers, Vol. 6: E/F/G 1922-1928|
|Rosie Mae Moore||Staggering Blues||I Can't Be Satisfied: Early American Blues Singers Vol. 1|
|Bessie Mae Smith||Mean Bloodhound Blues||St. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 1 1927-1929|
|Nellie Florence||Jacksonville Blues||Chocolate To The Bone|
|Marie Grinter||East and West Blues||Female Blues Singers Vol. 7 G/H 1922-1929|
|Martha Copeland||Police Blues||Martha Copeland Vol. 1 1923-1927|
|Hattie Snow||Make That Gravel Fly||Meaning In The Blues|
|Elzadie Robinson||Elzadie's Policy Blues||Paramount Jazz|
|Ida May Mack||Elm Street Blues||Texas Girls 1926-1929
|Bessie Tucker||The Katy||Bessie Tucker 1928 - 1929|
|Bertha Henderson||Black Bordered Letter||Paramount Jazz|
|Ora Brown||Jinx Blues||Blues Images Vol. 9|
|Fanny May Goosby||Fortune Teller Blues||Female Blues Singers 7 G/H 1922- 1929|
|Genevieve Davis||Haven't Got A Dollar To Pay Your House Rent Man||When the Sun Goes Down|
|Liza Brown||Peddlin' Blues||Bessie Brown 1925-1929 & Liza Brown 1929|
Woman blues singers seem to get shortchanged when it comes to interest among blues fans or reissue companies. I'm not talking about heavy hitters like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, but the dozens and dozens of fine singers who recorded in their shadows during the 1920's and 30's. This show is dedicated to singers like Ida May Mack, Elzadie Robinson, Bessie Tucker, Madlyn Davis and others; in some cases they recorded dozens of sides or just a handful, some were quite popular in their day while other achieved little or no success yet they cut some exceptional blues records that, outside of collectors, remain all but forgotten today.
As researcher Don Kent wrote: "In the late 1890's, an amateur folklorist in Frankfort, Kentucky, heard a black woman in the county workhouse do a melancholy song called a 'jailhouse moan'. In 1902, traveling with a tent show, the young Ma Rainey heard a woman in Missouri do a 'strange and poignant' song (which Ma immediately incorporated in her act) that she later identified as a 'blues'. Nearly a decade passed before this style gained any real prominence, but Mamie Smith's first recording in 1920 showed record companies that black people were anxious and willing to buy music by their peers. Ironically, although Mamie Smith started the blues bandwagon, her repertoire was more indicative of black vaudeville and cabaret singers who included blues and pseud0-blues among their performance pieces."
The "Classic Female Blues" era as it's generally called, spanned from 1920 to 1929 with its peak from 1923 to 1925. The most popular of these singers were Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Ethel Waters, Ida Cox, Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace, Alberta Hunter, Clara Smith and Trixie Smith. As Paul Oliver notes: "One of the records that helped launch the issue of so-called 'Race Records'…was Mamie Smith's 'Crazy Blues.' It was to the benefit of many other black woman singers that a black woman had at last broke into what had previously been an exclusively white market. During the decade after the release of this record, more than 200 women singers were recorded and their songs issued on Race Records. Several of them made more than a hundred titles each, and a great many made a few dozen. In addition, there were those who made just a handful of titles that were often of great interest, nonetheless." In 1921 blues singers such as Lillyn Brown, Lavinia Turner, Lucille Hegamin, Daisey Martin all made records. In January 1922 Metronome declared that "every phonograph company has a colored girl recording blues." Of course woman like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Ida Cox had been singing the blues for years, mainly in the South, in circuses like Miller's 101 Ranch, The Mighty Haag Circus, Vaudeville stages and minstrel shows like Sugar Foot Greene's Minstrel Show, Silas Green from New Orleans and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels.
Several of today artists got their start in vaudeville, black theater or worked primarily fronting jazz bands. In this category we hear from Viola McCoy, Edith Wilson, Ann Cook and Julia Davis.
In the early 1920s, Viola McCoy moved to New York City, where she worked in cabarets and appeared in revues at the Lincoln and Lafayette Theaters. She toured the Theater Owners Bookers Association vaudeville circuit, and made numerous recordings between 1923–1929 for various labels including Gennett, Vocalion, and Columbia Records.Author Derrick Stewart-Baxter wrote of McCoy: "She belongs to the great vaudeville tradition, but in all she does there is a strong jazz strain … Possessing a lovely contralto voice and fine diction, she was able to project herself through even the worst recording … It would be true to say that in the three years she was recording most prolifically she hardly ever made a bad record".
Edith Wilson was one of the stars of early African-American musical theater. After working in vaudeville with her pianist brother Danny Wilson, Edith rose to prominence in 1921 when she replaced Mamie Smith in Perry Bradford's musical revue "Put And Take". Bradford arranged for her to begin recording with Columbia in 1921. She was paired with Johnny Dunn's Jazz Hounds for a series of 17 recordings made in 1921 and 1922. Wilson would make few recordings in subsequent years until she made her comeback in the 1970s.
Nothing much is known about Ann Cook and Julia Davis other then they were exceptional singers who were recorded fronting jazz bands. We hear the great Johnny Dodds backing singer Julia Davis who cut one 78 for Paramount in 1924 and one final terrific record in 1928, "Jasper Taylor Blues b/w Geechie River Blues", backed by the Original Washboard Band featured washboard player Jasper Taylor. Ann Cook was a New Orleans singer who recorded a couple of songs in 1927 backed by a band that included Louis Dumaine on Cornet, Willie Joseph on Clarinet, Leonard Mitchell on Banjo and Morris Rouse on Piano. Cook was recorded again in the 1940's.
Several of today's featured singers fall in the down-home blues category of singing. Among those are Madlyn Davis, Elzadie Robinson. Ida Mae Mack, Bessie Tucker, Bessie Mae Smith and Nellie Florence.
Madlyn Davis made ten recordings in Chicago, for Paramount Records, with her first session taking place in June 1927. In October 1928, Davis had her final recording stint, with her backing musicians including Georgia Tom Dorsey on piano and Tampa Red on guitar. Her most famous song was "Kokola Blues", obviously mistitled at the time. Scrapper Blackwell recorded it the following year as "Kokomo Blues". In 1934 Kokomo Arnold called his version "Old Original Kokomo Blues". Two years later Robert Johnson turned it in to "Sweet Home Chicago", and the rest is history.
Vocalist Elzadie Robinson hailed from Shreveport, Louisiana, but remained in Chicago, after going there to record. Her recordings span 1926-29, and during that time she worked with several pianists including Bob Call, and her regular accompanist and fellow Shreveport native, Will Ezell. Robinson chiefly recorded for the Paramount label, but also cut several sides for Broadway and used the aliases Bernice Drake and Blanche Johnson.
Ida May Mack was a Texas singer who traveled by train to Memphis, Tennessee in the summer of 1928 along with Bessie Tucker and Charlie Kyle to record. Mack made at least ten recordings with multiple takes of some, only six sides were issued by her at the time. Little is known about Bessie Tucker. Tucker had another session in Dallas the following year, once again backed by Johnson on piano as well as other area musicians. No one knows what happened to her after her recording sessions and unlike most of her peers of the day, one photo of her survives.
Little is known about Rosie Mae Moore except for the fact that she was Charlie McCoy's girlfriend during the time of her recordings that all took place in 1928. She recorded four sides for Victor in Memphis in the early part of the year. Later in December she recorded four more sides for Brunswick in New Orleans, backed by McCoy as well as Walter Vincson and Bo Chatman of The Mississippi Shieks. On her Brunswick releases she was billed as Mary Butler.
Bessie Mae Smith recorded variously as St. Louis Bessie, Blue Belle and Streamline Mae. Her 18 sides recorded between 1927-1930.