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MEMPHIS MINNIE

(1897 - 1973)

(born June 3, 1897*, Algiers, Louisiana; 
died August 6, 1973, Memphis, Tennessee)

Memphis Minnie is considered by many to be the best female blues singer of all time.  Guitar player and blues singer, she not only ranks along with the blues' best female artists, but also along with the best male blues artists as well.  She was among the first twenty performers elected to the Hall of Fame in the inaugural W. C. Handy awards in 1980 (Garon, 1991).

Around 1904, Minnie (born Lizzie Douglas) and her family moved to a farm in Wall, Mississippi, which is just south of Memphis, Tennessee.  She received her first guitar in 1905 as a Christmas present.  She was soon playing guitar and banjo, and sometime during her early teens began running away from home to play on Memphis' Beale Street.  During the war, she began touring the south with a Ringling Brothers show to gain experience (Garon, 1992).

Minnie was as tough a drinker and blues singer as any man.  She returned to Memphis in the 20s where, accompanied by her guitarist, second husband Kansas Joe McCoy,  she was discovered on Beale Street by Columbia Records in 1929.  Later that year, she recorded her first song, one of her most successful tunes, "Bumble Bee."

Minnie and Joe soon became part of the growing Chicago blues scene after moving to the city in 1930.  Minnie recorded for a number of labels and with a number of blues men before illness forced her to retire in the mid-50s.  She moved back to Memphis where she spent the remainder of her life until she died of a stroke in 1973 (Santelli, 1993).

*birthdate according to Minnie's death certificate

Garon, Paul.  Liner notes.  Memphis Minnie:  Hoodoo Lady (1933 - 1937).  Columbia, 1991.

Garon, Paul and Beth.  Woman With Guitar:  Memphis Minnie's Blues.  New York, NY: Da Capo Publishing, 1992.

Santelli, Robert.  The Big Book of Blues. New York, NY:  Penguin Publishing, 1993.


1900s  / 1910s  / 1920s  / 1930s / 1940s
1950s / 1960s  / 1970s  / 1980s  / 1990s

www.southernmusic.net



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