Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Memphis Minnie McCoy

Memphis Minnie McCoy

Memphis Minnie was born in Algiers, Louisiana on June 3, 1897 as Lizzie Douglas. She ran away to Memphis, Tennesse at age thirteen. She joined Ringling Brothers circus the next year. A Columbia Records talent scout heard signed her to a contract in 1929. Minnie recorded for forty years, a unique feat among female blues artists. She was a flamboyant character who wore bracelets made of silver dollars and was the biggest female blues singer from the early Depression years through World War II. She took up the electric guitar in 1942. She combined her Louisiana-country roots with Memphis-blues to produce her unique country-blues sound. Along with Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red, she took country blues into electric urban blues, paving the highway for giants like Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Jimmy Rogers. She was married three times, and each husband was an accomplished blues guitarist: Joe McCoy (a.k.a. "Kansas Joe") later of the Harlem Hamfats, Casey Bill Weldon of the Memphis Jug Band, and Ernest Lawlers (a.k.a. "Little Son Joe"). Minnie recorded nearly 200 records with “Little Son Joe”. In the 1940s she formed a touring Vaudeville company. From the 1950s on, however, public interest in her music declined and in 1957 she and Little Son Joe returned to Memphis. In 1961, Joe died and Minnie suffered a stroke which forced her to spend the rest of her life in nursing homes until she died in 1973.

Luckily, she was able to see her reputation revived in the 1960s as part of the general revival of interest in the blues. She died on August 6, 1973. In 1980, Memphis Minnie was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame.

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