Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sippie Wallace

Sippie Wallace

Sippie Wallace was born on November 1, 1898 in Houston, Texas as Beulah Thomas. Her family was quite musical; her brothers were George W. Thomas, a notable pianist, bandleader, composer, and music publisher, and Hersal Thomas, and her niece was Hociel Thomas (daughter of George). In her youth she sang and played organ in Baptist church where her father was a deacon, but in the evenings the children took to sneaking out to tent shows. By her midteens, they were playing in those tent shows.

In 1915 she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, married, and changed her name. In 1923 she moved to Chicago, Illinois and made her first recordings for Okeh Records as Sippie Wallace, "The Texas Nightingale". She was one of the popular blues singers of the 1920s, recording over 40 songs between 1923 and 1927, many written by herself or her brothers. In the 1930s she retired from most commercial performance, mostly playing and singing in church in Detroit, Michigan. She made some more recordings in the 1940s, and returned to touring in 1966 with the blues revival of that period, when her fellow singer Victoria Spivey convinced her to record a new album, Sippie Wallace Sings the Blues. That album made such a vivid impression on Bonnie Raitt, then a student at Radcliffe College with an interest in the blues, that she sought out and befriended Wallace, and fifteen years later in 1981, the duo recorded an album Sippie for Atlantic Records, which earned a 1983 Grammy nomination and the 1984 W. C. Handy Award for best blues album of the year. Sippie Wallace continued performing into her 80s. She died on her birthday in 1986. Sippie Wallace was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.

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