LUCILLE BOGAN


 









 

 










 


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Always remembered for some of her very risqué lyrics, blues singer Lucille Bogan, neé Anderson, was born in Monroe County, Mississippi in April 1897. Little is known about her childhood but by 1916 she had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and had married Nazareth Lee Bogan, a railway fireman. She had a son, also called Nazareth Lee in 1916, and had gained a stepdaughter by her marriage. The aunt of pianist and trumpet-player Thomas "Big Music" Anderson, she was said to have had one of the finest voices of any female blues singer. Although her early work was influenced by vaudeville stylists, with age and experience her voice deepened and her expression matured, and she should certainly be ranked alongside Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Her first recordings, vaudeville songs, were made for OKeh in New York City in 1923, and she was accompanied by pianist Henry C. Callens.

Later in 1923 Lucille recorded a vaudeville-styled song, “Pawn Shop Blues”, also for OKeh but this time in Atlanta, Georgia, when she was backed by Eddie Heywood on piano. This was the first ever recording made outside New York City or Chicago by a black blues singer. In 1927 she went to Chicago to record and her first session for Paramount produced “Sweet Petunia”, an influential song which was later adapted by Vance Dixon with Alex Channey, Blind Blake, Curley Weaver, and others in support. She had a very colorful love life, with both men and women, and it was rumoured that Lucille had an affair with pianist Will Ezell, who had accompanied her for Paramount in a session that also featured Papa Charlie Jackson. As a result of her affair with Ezell, she was involved in divorce proceedings started by her husband, but these were not finalised. In 1928, Lucille recorded for Brunswick, backed by Tampa Red and Cow Cow Davenport. Further influential recordings followed which produced “Sloppy Drunk Blues” and “Alley Boogie”. Among notable artists who recorded versions of the former were Leroy Carr, Bumble Bee Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Jimmy Rogers.

Lucille recorded a final session for Brunswick in 1930, and this produced the highly influential “Black Angel Blues” and “Tricks Ain’t Walkin’ No More”.  Whilst Memphis Minnie revived the latter, apart from the obvious derivations of Black Angel Blues, (usually as “Sweet Little Angel”) by artists such as Tampa Red, Robert Nighthawk, B. B. King, Earl Hooker and countless others, Lowell Fulson produced a more subtle reworking as “Love 'n' Things”. Between 1933 and 1935 Lucille Bogan teamed up with pianist Walter Roland, adopting the name Bessie Jackson. The duo recorded for the American Record Company, the releases included her infamous track "Shave 'Em Dry" with its explicit sexual lyrics, (Walter Roland subsequently released a less successful response song, "I'm Gonna Shave You".) In 1935 Lucille moved back to Alabama, still with husband Nazareth, where she managed her son’s jazz band, ‘Bogan’s Birmingham Busters’. However her marriage finally broke up in 1941 and she eventually followed her son to Los Angeles with her then common-law husband. She died in 1948, aged 51, and, possibly as result of impoverishment, was buried in a grave without a headstone.

    I Hate That Train Called the M and O