Memphis Minnie










Of all the female blues singers, Memphis Minnie, was perhaps one of the most colourful. In a blues scene dominated by men, she could hold her own with the best of them. She could swear, drink, use a gun, and enjoy a succession of lovers as well as any man. She was also a very beautiful woman who always dressed elegantly. She was christened Elizabeth when she was born to the Douglas family in 1897 in Algiers, Louisiana. In 1907 her family moved to a small town in Mississippi, and by the time Lizzie was in her early teens she could play guitar and banjo, busking on street corners for small change, and using the name Kid Douglas. During her twenties she became an established part of the Beale Street blues circuit, and also toured the southern American States in vaudeville and with the famous Ringling Brothers Circus. When she was 32 years old, and already divorced from first husband Casey Bill Weldon, she was recorded by the Columbia label, accompanied by her second husband Kansas Joe McCoy.

The modest success of her release, "Bumble Bee", encouraged her to move to Chicago where she stayed for the next 25 years. There her playing, drinking and general bawdy behaviour made her a legend. She was recorded again in the late 1930's with her then third husband, Ernest 'Little Son Joe' Lawlers, on labels such as Bluebird and Vocalion, and she continued to record until her hard living inevitably led to her health beginning to deteriorate when she was in her mid 50's. She eventually returned to Memphis where she spent her last years in a nursing home confined to a wheelchair. She died in 1973 aged 76.

    Memphis Minnie with Kansas Joe McCoy - Going Back Home