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A Birth of the Blues

A YouTube History of Music

Early Blues 2

Harmonica - Piano - Voice - Other Instruments

Group & Last Name Index to Full History:


Tracks are listed in chronological order by year, then alphabetically.

Listings do not reflect proper order by month or day: later oft precedes earlier.

Not on this page? See history tree below.



Texas Alexander    Lovie Austin

DeFord Bailey    Blues Serenaders
Leroy Carr    Lillie Delk Christian    Doctor Clayton    Ida Cox
Thomas A Dorsey (Georgia Tom)    Arizona Dranes
WC Handy    Robert Hoffman    Rosetta Howard
Noah Lewis
Antonio Maggio    Memphis Jug Band    Sara Martin    Jelly Roll Morton
Robert Nighthawk
Ma Rainey
Will Shade    Bessie Smith    Clara Smith    Mamie Smith    Trixie Smith    Victoria Spivey    Roosevelt Sykes
Hociel Thomas
Sippie Wallace   Hart Wand    Ethel Waters    Georgia White    Sonny Boy Williamson I



Featured on this page loosely in order of first recording if not record release (as possible).

Names are alphabetical, not chronological, per year:



Robert Hoffman    Antonio Maggio    Hart Wand

1917 WC Handy
1920 Mamie Smith
1921 Ethel Waters
1922 Sara Martin    Trixie Smith
1923 Lovie Austin    Blues Serenaders    Ida Cox    Jelly Roll Morton     Bessie Smith    Clara Smith    Sippie Wallace
1924 Ma Rainey
1925 Lillie Delk Christian (Hociel Thomas)
1926 Arizona Dranes    Victoria Spivey
1927 Texas Alexander    DeFord Bailey    Noah Lewis    Memphis Jug Band    Will Shade
1928 Leroy Carr    Thomas A Dorsey (George Tom)
1929 Roosevelt Sykes
1930 Georgia White
1935 Doctor Clayton
1937 Rosetta Howard    Sonny Boy Williamson I


  Formally, what distinguishes the blues from other musical genres is a matter of bar and stanza structure, tonality (key) and flattened "blue" notes. Otherwise, for some, the blues are a branch of folk music, deriving out of the deep south (Louisiana, Mississippi). Good examples of that are in Blues 1. But this page more views (for a large part) the blues deriving from early (urban) jazz. (Ragtime blues can be found in Early Jazz 1, Early Jazz 2 and Early Jazz 3.)

The term, "the blues," is thought to have first been used in the ragtime sheet music of Antonio Maggio, publishing a song titled, 'I Got the Blues', in 1908. In 1909 Robert Hoffman published 'I'm Alabama Bound', also promoted as 'The Alabama Blues'. (There is speculation that the term was used as early as 1872 on a song titled, 'Got Dem Blues', but no verification of such is found.) Little is known about either Maggio or Hoffman, but their sheet music has been rendered by Dorian Henry below:

Antonio Maggio   Composition: 1908

   I Got the Blues

      Pianist: Dorian Henry

Robert Hoffman   Composition: 1909

   I'm Alabama Bound (The Alabama Blues)

      Pianist: Dorian Henry



Hart Wand, an Oklahoma City violinist and band leader, is generally credited with composing and publishing the "first" blues song, 'Dallas Blues', in 1912 (which the entries above show to be not quite true). Wand was born in 1887 in Topeka. He was more a businessman than a composer. His father was a druggist with a drugstore in Topeka, then Oklahoma City upon the Land Rush in 1889. Wand inherited the business upon his father's death in 1909, whence he took it to Chicago, then New Orleans, then expanded sales throughout the world. He thus had little time to indulge in his love of music. Which may be why he didn't record 'Dallas Blues': the version to which this history points is rendered by pianist Sue Keller. Wand died in New Orleans in 1960, 73 years of age.

Hart Wand   Composition: 1912

   Dallas Blues

      Pianist: Sue Keller



Birth of the Blues: Hart Wand

Hart Wand

Source: Wikipedia


Birth of the Blues: WC Handy

William Christopher Handy

Source:  Historic Memphis

William Handy, a brass musician, is often called the "Father" of the blues. Born in Florence, Alabama, in 1873, Handy's parents were very religious, his father a pastor. The story goes that as a youth Handy had saved money to buy a guitar. But upon doing so his father made him return it, then enrolled him in organ lessons, the guitar an instrument associated with the undesirable, the organ otherwise. But Handy didn't like playing organ. So he purchased a cornet. It isn't known what his parents thought of that instrument. But Handy kept his membership in a local band secret. He put together his first band, the Lauzetta Quartet, in 1892, which disbanded the same year. But the next year finds Handy playing cornet at the Chicago World's Fair. At age 23 (1896) Handy became leader of Mahara's Colored Minstrels, with which he toured from Chicago to points south, including Texas and Cuba. In 1900 Handy began teaching music at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes. But Handy preferred Southern folk to classical, so in 1902 he put together a minstrel group and traveled throughout Mississippi to study the blues. Handy eventually took his band to Memphis in 1909 where they played the clubs on Beale Street, now long since famous as the hub for Delta blues. It was 1912 when he published the sheet music for 'Memphis Blues' (originally titled 'Mister Crump'). Various versions below include an early piano roll by Eubie Blake, an instrumental band version, a vocal version and, finally, a solo version by Handy himself. 'St. Louis Blues' and 'Bunch of Blues' below are recordings by Handy. The versions of 'Yellow Dog Blues' below include its third recording in 1919. Handy expected to earn about a hundred dollars from it. But it was so successful that it's turned out to be the highest selling recording of his music. The second version below is a piano solo, thanks again to pianist Sue Keller. Starting in 1926 Handy would write five books concerning the blues. In his later years he moved to Harlem where he was blinded by a fall from a subway platform in 1943. (So many Southern blues artists were either born blind or blinded along the way that we do not even mention it in the histories of a few of them in Blues 1, as like being blind or going blind was a prerequisite to blues musicianship. Rather phenomenal even when one consider that there were few ways for a blind person to survive in those past years but by busking on the streets for change.) Handy died in 1958 of bronchial pneumonia. His funeral was attended by some 25,000, another 150,000 in the streets.

William Handy   ?

   Memphis Blues

      Composition 1912   Piano roll by Eubie Blake

William Handy   1914

   Memphis Blues

      Composition 1912

      Recorded July 15 by the Victor Military Band

   Memphis Blues

      Composition 1912

      Recorded October 2 by Morton Harvey

William Handy   ?

   Memphis Blues

      Composition 1912   William Handy

William Handy   1917

   Bunch of Blues

William Handy   1919

   Yellow Dog Blues

      Composition 1914   Joseph Smith Orchestra

William Handy   1939

   St. Louis Blues

      Composition: 1914

William Handy   ?

   Yellow Dog Blues

      Composition 1914   Pianist: Sue Keller



Birth of the Blues: Mamie Smith

Mamie Smith

Born in Cincinnati in 1883, Mamie Smith ("Queen of the Blues"), a vaudeville singer, was the first woman to record vocal blues with 'Crazy Blues' in 1920, that with her Jazz Hounds and so popular that a million copies of it were sold. She had actually earlier recorded in NYC with the Rega Orchestra on Valentine's Day that year, two titles issued by Okeh: 'That Thing Called Love' and 'You Can't Keep a Good Man Down'. Smith had began her career at age ten by joining a dancing troupe called the Four Dancing Mitchells. She then joined a troupe called the Smart Set. In 1913 she began singing in clubs in Harlem. Upon the great success of 'Crazy Blues', Smith continued to record and toured both the United States and Europe with her band, the Jazz Hounds. Of the four famous early female blues vocalists named Smith, none related, Mamie's biggest rivals were Bessie and Clara, Trixie not so much. Smith made her debut film appearance in 'Jailhouse Blues' in 1929. Her last known recording was also for film, 'Lord! Lord!' in 1942 with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra for the short feature, 'Because I Love You'. That would later get issued on 'Mamie Smith Vol 5: Goin' Crazy With The Blues (1924-1942). Smith died September 16, 1946. 

Mamie Smith   1920 

   Crazy Blues

Mamie Smith   1921

   A Little Kind Treatment

   Let's Agree to Disagree

   Wang Wang Blues

Mamie Smith   1926

   Goin' Crazy With the Blues

Mamie Smith   1929  

   My Sportin' Man

Mamie Smith   1931  

   Jenny's Ball

Mamie Smith   1935  

   Harlem Blues



Born in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1896, Ethel Waters ("Blackbird") first recorded in 1921, first a couple jazz songs ('The New York Glide' and 'At the New Jump Steady Ball'), then a couple blues tunes ('Oh Daddy' and 'Down Home Blues'). Waters had married at age thirteen. But he was abusive, to which she preferred to become a maid in Philadelphia. At age 17 she attended a nightclub costume party at which she was requested to sing a couple songs. That led to her first professional gig at Lincoln Theatre in Baltimore. Ten dollars a week, with tips thrown on stage by the audience taken by the managers, after which she began touring the vaudeville circuit. She eventually settled in Harlem where she played the clubs (eventually the prestigious Cotton Club) and began recording, making such a name for herself that she would soon be working with such as Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. Her first film appearance is thought to be 'On With the Show' in 1929, though she earlier played Broadway as well. She then topped it all off with a couple autobiographies: 'His Eye Is On the Sparrow' and 'To Me, It's Wonderful'. Waters died in California September 1, 1977, 80 years of age. More Ethel Waters to be found in A Birth of Swing Jazz. Also find her under pianist James Johnson in Early Jazz 3.

Ethel Waters   1921

   Down Home Blues

   Oh Daddy

   Am I Blue?

   Am I Blue?

      Film: 'On With the Show'


Birth of the Blues: Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters

Photo: Carl Van Vechten

Source: Ethel Waters


Birth of the Blues: Sara Martin with Sylvester Weaver

Sara Martin    Sylvester Weaver

Source: Terry's Songs

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1884, Sara Martin was a highly popular blues vocalist who started her career doing vaudeville, later moving on to jug band music. Her first recording is thought to have been for Okeh in NYC on October 17, 1922, with Clarence Williams on piano: 'Sugar Blues'. hey also put down 'Achin' Hearted Blues' that month. She moved from Okeh to Columbia for her next session on November 18 with Arthur Whetsol (trumpet), Claude Hopkins (piano) and Elmer Snowden (banjo) to lay down 'I Loved You Once' and 'Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do'. She was back with Okeh on December 1 for another rendition of 'Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do' with 'You Got Ev'ry Thing', those with pianist, Fats Waller. Another session with Waller followed a couple weeks later on the 14th for 'Mama's Got the Blues' and 'Last Go Round Blues'. April 6 of 1923 found Martin with Williams again for 'Keeps on a-rainin'' and 'Joe Turner Blues'. Williams would be among the more important figures in Martin's career, he supporting her operation throughout her next five years with Okeh to circa December of 1928 in Long Island City, NY, for 'Mean Tight Mama', 'Mistreatin' Man Blues' and 'Kitchen Man Blues'. Guitarist, Sylvester Weaver, was another of her companions, they recording a couple duets on October 31, 1923 for Okeh: 'Longing for Daddy Blues' and 'I've Got to Go'. They saw multiple sessions together in various small configurations until August 30, 1927, saw their last duets together, such as 'Loving is What I Crave' and 'Orn'ry Blues'. Following her recording career with Okeh Martin appeared in films, 'Hello Bill' in 1929 and 'Darktown Revue' in 1931. She also worked during that period as stage performer, touring eastern cities as well as the Caribbean. Martin pulled out of the music business in 1932 to run a nursing home in Louisville. She died of stroke on May 24 of 1955.

Sara Martin   1922

   Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do

Sara Martin   1923

   Mistreated Mama

      With Sylvester Weaver

Sara Martin   1924

   I'm Gonna Be a Lovin' Old Soul

      Jug band

Sara Martin   1927

   Where Shall I Be?

      With Sylvester Weaver

     Composition: Charles Price Jones   1904

Sara Martin   1928

   Death Stung Me Blues

      With King Oliver



Born in Atlanta in 1895, Trixie Smith attended Selma University in Alabama before heading to New York where she began working minstrels and vaudeville. She first recorded in January 1922 in NYC for Black Swan: 'Desperate Blues' and 'Trixie's Blues'. A session with James Johnson's Harmony Eight followed in March for 'You Missed a Good Woman' and 'Long Lost Weary Blues'. A couple titles followed in April before two with the Jazz Masters in September: 'Give Me That Old Slow Drag' and 'My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)'. That was followed in October by what are thought to be her first with her band, the Down Home Syncopators: "I'm Through with You as I Can Be', 'Take It Daddy' and 'Just a Little Bit More'. Of the four famous early female blues vocalists named Smith, none related, Trixie's rivals who were Bessie, Clara and Mamie were considerably more successful. Which isn't to say, however, that Trixie wasn't. Issuing nearly 50 titles, she shook legs with premier musicians like Louis Armstrong. Armstrong was in Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in January of 1925 for 'Everybody Loves My Baby' and 'How Come You Do Me Like You Do?'. He joined her Down Home Syncopators the next month for 'You've Got to Beat Me to Keep Me' and 'Mining Camp Blues'. Upon the waning of her career as a blues vocalist in the latter twenties Smith made her living in cabaret and stage revues. In the thirties she made four film appearances. Her last recording is thought to have been on June 14 of 1939 for 'No Good Man' (Decca 7617) with a group including Henry Red Allen on trumpet and Sid Catlett on drums. That would later get issued on 'Trixie Smith Vol 2 1925-1939'. Unfortunately Smith died relatively young in New York, age 48, on September 21, 1943.

Trixie Smith   1922

   My Man Rocks Me

Trixie Smith   1938

   Freight Train Blues

   Jack, I'm Mellow

   My Daddy Rocks Me


Birth of the Blues: Trixie Smith 

Trixie Smith

Source: Yehoodi


Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1887, pianist Lovie Austin studied music at Roger Williams University and Knoxville College in Knoxville.before joining Ida Cox in Chicago in June of 1923 for 'Any Woman's Blues', ''Bama Bound Blues' and 'Lovin' Is the Thing I'm Wild About'. That same month Austin's ensemble, the Blues Serenaders, backed Cox on 'Graveyard Dream Blues' and 'Weary Way Blues'. Austin and Cox would record numerously together to 1926. Among other vocalists Austin's Serenaders early supported was Ma Rainey, their first session together in December of '23 for tracks like 'Bo-Weavil Blues' and 'Those All Night Long Blues'. Upon the waning of her impressive career as a pianist Rainey assumed the role, for two decades, of musical director for the Monogram Theater in Chicago. It was in Chicago that Austin died on July 10, 1972.

Lovie Austin   1923

   Graveyard Dream Blues

      With Ida Cox

   Last Minute Blues

      With Ma Rainey

Lovie Austin   1924

   Bo-weavil Blues

      With Ma Rainey

   Last Minute Blues

      With Ma Rainey

Lovie Austin   1925

   Don't Shake It No More


Birth of the Blues: Lovie Austin

Lovie Austin

Source: Red Hot Jazz



Born in Georgia in 1896, Ida Cox began recording blues in 1923. Cox had begun her career at age fourteen, leaving home to tour with White and Clark's Black & Tan Minstrels. She worked with several minstrel shows, most notably the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, while gaining experience in vaudeville. By 1920 she had largely put vaudeville behind her, now headlining as a blues singer, which performing with Jelly Roll Morton that year pretty much nailed. Since Bessie Smith was already "Queen of the Blues" Cox was billed as the "Uncrowned Queen of the Blues" when she began recording for Paramount in 1923. In 1929 she and her husband, Jesse Crump, put together a tent show called 'Raisin' Cain' which enjoyed great popularity for a decade, during which time she was billed as the "Sepia Mae West". In 1945 Cox suffered a stroke during a show which forced her into retirement. Retreating to a quiet life in Knoxville, Tennessee, she did, however, make one last record release in 1961, an album titled 'Blues For Rampart Street'. Cox died in 1967 in Knoxville, Tennessee. For later jazz recordings by Ida Cox see A Birth of Jazz 1.

Ida Cox   1923

   Graveyard Dream Blues

      Piano: Lovie Austin

   I've Got the Blues for Rampart Street

   Worried Mama Blues

Ida Cox   1925

   Coffin Blues

   Wild Women Don't Have the Blues

Ida Cox   1927  

   Fore Day Creep

Ida Cox   1941

   Last Mile Blues

Ida Cox   1961

   Death Letter Blues

      Album: 'Blues for Rampart Street'

     With Coleman Hawkins


Birth of the Blues: Ida Cox

Ida Cox

Source: Jonathan Bogart


Born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe in 1890 in New Orleans, Jelly Roll Morton is thought to have begun his professional career at age fourteen, playing piano in a brothel. In 1904 he began composing while traveling the South with minstrel shows. In 1912 he began performing the vaudeville circuit with Rosa Brown. Among his first published compositions was 'Jelly Roll Blues' in 1915. He left for Hollywood in 1917, then Vancouver, where he played at a club called The Patricia. Back in Chicago in 1923, he recorded with his own orchestra as early as June, 1923, two takes each of 'Big Foot Ham' and 'Muddy Water Blues' in Chicago for Paramount. The next month he laid three piano solos for Gennett at its studios in Richmond, Indiana: 'King Porter' with two takes of 'New Orleans Joys'. July that year found him recording with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Morton's debut piano rolls are thought to have been made in the summer of 1924 for Vocalstyle in Cincinnati, Ohio: 'Mr. Jelly Lord', 'Tin Roof Blues' and 'Tom Cat Blues'. His career took off in a big way when he signed up with Victor in 1926 with his Red Hot Peppers band. Morton's first issues with the the Peppers that year were 'Black Bottom Stomp', 'Smokehouse Blues' and two takes of 'The Chant'.      During the Depression Victor chose to not renew Morton's contract. With work drying up in clubs, Morton turned to radio in 1934, then toured with a burlesque act to earn a living. In 1935 he moved to Washington D.C. to manage a bar called the Jungle Inn, which career path ended in 1938 upon being stabbed by a friend of the owner. It was also 1938 when he recorded for Eddie Lomax and the Library of Congress, resulting in 'The Complete Library of Congress Recordings', a production of 128 tracks set down between May 23 and June 12 with interviews (released as a box set of eight CDs in 2005). Morton died July 10, 1941, of complications arising from his stabbing in 1930. More Jelly Roll Morton will be found in Jazz 1 as well.

Jelly Roll Morton   1923  

   King Porter Stomp

Jelly Roll Morton   1926   

   Jelly Roll Blues

Jelly Roll Morton   1930  

   Blue Blood Blues

Jelly Roll Morton   1938  

   Hesitation Blues

   Honky Tonk Blues

Jelly Roll Morton   1939

   Buddy Bolden's Blues

   West End Blues


Birth of the Blues: Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton

Photo: Frank Driggs Collection

Source: Mark Maynard


Born in 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bessie Smith ("Empress of the Blues") released her first recording, 'Down Hearted Blues', in 1923. Recorded in NYC on February 16 with 'Gulf Coast Blues' and 'Keeps on a-rainin', a couple earlier sessions that year witnessed the unissued titles, 'I Wish I Could Shimmy' (Okeh), 'Tain't Nobody's Business' and 'Downhearted Blues'. Of the four famous early female blues singers named Smith, none related, Bessie was the most successful with Clara and Mamie serious rivals, Trixie not so much. Bessie was to become the highest paid black musician in the business. She had begun her career busking on the streets of Chattanooga with her brother, Andrew, who played guitar. In 1912 her oldest brother, Clarence, got her a job with a traveling dance troupe, which already had its own singer: Ma Rainey. The next year found Smith working at the "81" Theater in Atlanta, as well as on the TOBA (Theater Owners Booking Association) circuit. She was living in Philadelphia by the time she made her first recording with Okeh followed by Columbia. Playing theaters during winter months, touring in summer, Smith gathered some of the biggest names in jazz to come into her fold. October of 1923, for example, found her with Coleman Hawkins and Fletcher Henderson to record 'Any Woman's Blues'. December that year saw 'Chicago Bound Blues' and 'Mistreatin' Daddy' with Don Redman and Henderson. She started 1925 in NYC on January 14 with Louis Armstrong, recording such as 'St. Louis Blues' and 'Reckless Blues'. 1927 saw such as 'Black Water Blues' with pianist, James Johnson. Smith made a Broadway appearance in 1929 ('Pansy'), the same year as her only film appearance, a short two-reeler (20 minutes or so), titled 'St. Louis Blues'. Her last recordings occurred in November 1933 with Okeh Records, for which she was paid $37.50 per title (no royalties). Among those were 'Take Me for a Buggy Ride' and 'I'm Down in the Dumps'. Smith died young, age 43, in 1937, upon a highway accident in a car driven her common-law husband, Richard Morgan. Perhaps 10,000 mourners attended her funeral. But she went without a headstone until blues singer, Janis Joplin, bought her one in 1970. More Bessie Smith under James Johnson.

Bessie Smith   1923  

   Down Hearted Blues

   Any Woman's Blues

   Baby Won't You Please Come Home

   T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do

Bessie Smith   1925  

   Careless Love Blues

   I Ain't Got Nobody

   Reckless Blues

      With Louis Armstrong

   Yellow Dog Blues

Bessie Smith   1927  

   After You've Gone

Bessie Smith   1929  

   Blue Spirit Blues

   I'm Wild About That Thing

   Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out

Bessie Smith   1930  

   Hop Scop Blues

Bessie Smith   1931

   I Need a Little Sugar In My Bowl

Bessie Smith      1933

   Give Me a Pigfoot


Birth of the Blues: Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith

Source: Legacy Recordings

Birth of the Blues: Clara Smith

Clara Smith

Source: Magic Old America


Born in 1894 in South Carolina, Clara Smith ("Queen of the Moaners") first recorded in 1923 in NYC with Fletcher Henderson at piano. Titles in May went unissued: 'I've Got Everything a Woman Needs' and 'Every Woman's Blues'. The same rendered in June saw release by Columbia. Of the four famous early female blues singers named Smith, none related, Bessie was the most successful with Clara and Mamie serious rivals, Trixie not so much. On October 4 of 1923 Clara and Bessie recorded a couple duets with Henderson at piano titled 'Far Away Blues' and 'I'm Going Back to My Used to Be'. Smith would groove 122 tracks until 1932, Lord's disco showing March 25 of that year the last in its chronology per '(I'm Tired of) Fattening Frogs for Snakes' and 'So Long Jim'. She moved to Detroit in 1933 to participate in theatre revues until she died young of heart attack in 1935 on February 2.

Clara Smith   1923

   Far Away Blues

      With Bessie Smith & Fletcher Henderson

Clara Smith   1924

   Don't Advertise Your Man

Clara Smith   1926

   Look Where The Sun Done Gone

Clara Smith   1928

   Ain't Got Nobody To Grind My Coffee

Clara Smith   1929

   Oh Mister Mitchell


Born Beulah Thomas in 1898 in Plum Bayou, Arkansas, Sippie Wallace went to Chicago in 1923 with her brothers George and Hersal (both musicians). She wasted no time acquiring a contract with Okeh the same year, she recording 'Shorty George Blues' and 'Up the Country Blues' in October of 1923. In 1929 she moved to Detroit, largely trading blues for gospel for the next three or four decades, singing as an organ player at Leland Baptist Church. In 1966 she came out of retirement. She began touring festivals and released a couple of albums, 'Women Be Wise' and 'Sippie Wallace Sings the Blues'. She was also featured on 'Louis Armstrong and the Blues Singers' in 1966. In 1970 she issued the album, 'Sippie Wallace and Victoria Spivey' on Spivey's label. She and much younger guitarist Bonnie Raitt began collaborating in the seventies. In 1981 she grooved 'Sippie' for Atlantic Records. She starred as herself in the film, 'Jammin' with the Blues Greats', in 1982. Wallace toured Germany in 1984 to record 'An Evening with Sippie Wallace' in October with German pianist Axel Zwingenberger. She died on her 88th birthday, November 1, 1986, in Detroit.

Sippie Wallace   1923

   Shorty George Blues

Sippie Wallace   1924

   Off and On Blues

   I'm So Glad I'm Brownskin

      With Sidney Bechet & Bunk Johnson

   Trouble Everywhere I Roam

      Piano: Clarence Williams

Sippie Wallace   1925

   Devil Dance Blues

      Piano: Hersal Thomas

   Every Dog Has His Day

      Piano: Hersal Thomas

   Morning Dove Blues

     Piano: Hersal Thomas

Sippie Wallace   1926

   I Feel Good

      With Louis Armstrong & Hersal Thomas

Sippie Wallace   1929

   I'm a Mighty Tight Woman

Sippie Wallace   1945

   Buzz Me

      Piano: Albert Ammons


Birth of the Blues: Sippie Wallace

Sippie Wallace

Birth of the Blues: Ma Rainey

Ma Rainey

Source: Wikipedia

Born Gertrude Pridgett in Columbus, Georgia, in 1886, Ma Rainey ("Mother of the Blues") released her debut recordings for Paramount, 'Bad Luck Blues' and 'Bo-Weavil Blues' in 1924, those among others per her first session in December, 1923, in Chicago. She was accompanied on those by the Blues Serenaders: Tommy Ladnier (cornet) Jimmy O'Bryant (clarinet) and Lovie Austin (piano). Rainey had begun her career as an adolescent in minstrel shows. She took the name, Ma Rainey, upon marrying Will Rainey in 1904, the same year both began touring with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. A decade later they put together their own tent show called Rainey and Rainey, in 1914. Being discovered by Paramount saw her soon recording with big names. A session on October 15, 1924, found her with Don Redman on clarinet and Fletcher Henderson on piano for 'Booze and Blues', 'Toad Frog Blues' and 'Jealous Hearted Blues'. A session the next day found her with Louis Armstrong on cornet and Buster Bailey on clarinet for such as 'See See Rider' and 'Countin' the Blues'. Pianist, Tommy Dorsey, supported her on tracks in '25 (: 'Army Camp Harmony Blues') and '28 (: 'Daddy Goodbye Blues'). It was Dorsey and Tampa Red in September of 1928 for 'Leavin' This Mornin', and 'Black Eye Blues'. With those names on her resumé Rainey could afford to tour in her own bus with her own name on it. Howsoever, Paramount just as swiftly determined her sound to be passé and dropped her the same year. She is thought to have made her last recordings in October and December of 1928 with Papa Charlie Jackson on banjo for ''Ma and Pa Poorhouse Blues' and 'Big Feeling Blues'. Rainey toured until 1933 when she returned to Georgia to run a couple of theaters she had purchased, dying of heart disease on December 22, 1939, 53 years of age.

Ma Rainey   1924

   Bad Luck Blues

   Bo-Weavil Blues

   Moonshine Blues

Ma Rainey   1924  

   Booze and Blues

Ma Rainey   1926

   Down In The Basement

      Trumpet: Doc Cheatham


Born in 1904 in Houston, pianist Hociel Thomas made her first blues recordings for the Gennett label in 1925. In 1926 she began recording as Lillie Delk Christian, her first titles for Okeh being 'Sweet Man' and 'Sweet Georgia Brown'. Her aunt was Sippie Wallace (above). Her father was the pianist, George Thomas. The Great Depression put an end to Christian's earlier career, which she later revived upon moving to California, recording with trumpeter Mutt Carey in 1946 (her final recordings), also working with Kid Ory in 1948 in San Francisco. That year or the next she was acquitted of a manslaughter charge upon killing one of her sisters during an argument. She died in 1952 of heart failure. Christian is backed by Louis Armstrong on each track below. More of Christian in Early Jazz 2.

Lillie Delk Christian   1925

   Washer Woman Blues

Lillie Delk Christian   1926

   Deep Water Blues

Lillie Delk Christian   1927

   I Must Have That Man


Birth of the Blues: Hociel Thomas

Lillie Delk Christian

Source: Red Hot Jazz

  Born blind in Sherman, Texas, just south of eastern Oklahoma, in 1889 or '91 as Juanita Drane (possibly Drain), "Arizona" Dranes learned piano as a teenager after attending the Texas Institute for Deaf, Dumb and Blind Colored Youth in Austin. She's an apt example of the divergence of blues and gospel as well as the Holiness (Pentecostal) gospel of the Bible Belt region versus the black gospel that Thomas A Dorsey would center in Chicago. Dorsey was a Baptist but Pentecostals would soon take the reins. As mentioned, Dranes was Pentecostal as well, belonging to the Church of God in Christ in Wichita Falls. She first recorded with Okeh Records in 1926, globaldogproductions documenting 10 possible tracks that year, a few of them highly likely according to a 1976 Herwin Records release of Dranes' recordings between 1926 and '28. Dranes is largely known due to having been an influence on Dorsey's black gospel movement farther northeast in Illinois. Like Dorsey, she had both merged blues and gospel in their sharing of common roots, and distinguished them separately, one secular for playing at barrelhouses, the other spiritual for performing in church. She otherwise toured into the forties, drawing attention to black gospel in general before settling in Los Angeles in 1948. She there passed away in July of 1963, black gospel yet rowing strong in its golden period. Among Dranes' greatest contributions was simply adding piano to gospel music that was usually performed by a capella choral groups, then arranging voice to emphasized piano rather than using the instrument only for accompaniment. Roberta Martin would later make similar use of the piano in gospel.

Arizona Dranes   1926


   In That Day

   John Said He Saw a Number

   My Soul Is a Witness for the Lord

Arizona Dranes   1928

   God's Got a Crown


Birth of the Blues: Arizona Dranes

Arizona Dranes

Source: NPR

Birth of the Blues: Victoria Spivey

Victoria Spivey

Source: Smokestack Lightnin'

Born in Houston, Texas, in 1906, Victoria Spivey first recorded with 'Black Snake Blues' and 'Dirty Woman Blues' in 1926. Spivey's career began with her father who had a string band. When he died, she age seven, she continued performing at such as parties. In 1918 she left Houston for Dallas to accompany silent films at the Lincoln Theater, whence she began performing in nightclubs (also meeting Blind Lemon Jefferson). In 1926 she moved to St. Louis where she signed on to Okeh Records, recording 'Black Snake Blues' and ''Dirty Woman's Blues' on May 11, 1926. Two days later she was with Pierce Gist (cornet) and De Lloyd Barnes (piano) for 'Long Gone Blues' and 'No More Jelly Bean Blues'. Come August 13, 1926, for what may have been her first session with guitarist/violinist, Lonnie Johnson, perhaps with John Erby on piano for 'Big Houston Blues' and 'Got the Blues So Bad'. Johnson and Spivey would see one another numerously to 1929, Lord's disco showing a last date together for duets on July 3, those being two parts to 'You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now'. They would reunite in 1961 for tracks to Spivey's 'Idle Hours' and 'Woman Blues'. April 12 of 1965 found Johnson backing titles to 'The Queen and Her Knights'. Among the highlights of her early career was opportunity to put down tracks on July 10 of 1929 with jazz giant in the becoming, Louis Armstrong, Okeh to issue 'Funny Feathers' and 'How Do You Do It That Way?'. Others with whom she early recorded were King Oliver ('28) and Henry Red Allen ('29). The Great Depression put most of the blues industry to thin strings. But Spivey was fortunate to be able to transition to films, her first appearance in 1929 in 'Hallelujah!'. Spivey retired from the entertainment industry in 1951, then resumed her career ten years later per Lonnie Johnson above. Highlighting that period was a session on March 2 of 1962 for her own label, Spivey Records (1961-85), with guitarist, Big Joe Williams, and folk singer, Bob Dylan, for the title, 'It's Dangerous'. The last certain recording date given her in Lord's discography was at Chelsea House in Brattleboro, Vermont on May 22, 1976. Accompanied by Danny Russo, among others, they performed 'T.B. Blues' and 'Organ Grinder Blues'. Spivey died several months later of internal hemorrhage on October 3, 1976, she 69 years of age.

Victoria Spivey   1926  

   Black Snake Blues

Victoria Spivey   1927  

   Dirty TB Blues

   Dope Head Blues

Victoria Spivey   1929

   How Do They Do It That Way   

   Moaning the Blues

   Don't Trust Nobody Blues

Victoria Spivey   1934  

   Any Kind of Man

Victoria Spivey   1936  

   Detroit Moan  

Victoria Spivey   1963

   T B Blues

      Live performance

Victoria Spivey   1976  

   You're My Man (Slick Chick Blues)




Blues singer Alger Texas Alexander was born in Jewett, Texas in 1900. He began recording in 1927 with 'Range In My Kitchen Blues'. But he never sang the blues like he would upon murdering his wife in 1939. After serving only five years in prison he resumed his career (his last recording with Benton's Busy Bees in 1950) until his death, of syphilis, in 1954. Some mistakenly believe that Alexander was the first to record 'The House Of the Rising Sun'. The song of the matter is 'The Rising Sun' below. It is obviously a different song, both lyrically and melodically. The lyrics, "My woman got something (just) like the rising sun," is but coincidence. (The first to record 'The House Of the Rising Sun' was country western musician Clarence Ashley in 1933. Ashley can be found in A Birth of Country Western.)

Texas Alexander   1927

   Range In My Kitchen

Texas Alexander   1928

   Frisco Train Blues

      Cornet: King Oliver   Guitar: Lonnie Johnson

   The Risin' Sun

      The link above lends the mistaken title 'House of the Rising Sun'

Texas Alexander   1929

   Double Crossing Blues

      With Little Hat Jones

Texas Alexander   1934

   Frost Texas Tornado Blues


Birth of the Blues: Alger Texas Alexander

Alger Texas Alexander

Source: Red Hot Jazz

Birth of the Blues: DeFord Bailey

DeFord Bailey

Source: DeFord Bailey

Born in 1899 in Tennessee, harmonica player DeFord Bailey was more a country musician than bluesman per se. Yet he something defies inclusion in the country categories of this YouTube history of music as they are, more belonging on this page. Bailey was the first musician to play on the Grand Ole Opry in 1927. The Grand Ole Opry was originally a Nashville radio broadcast (WSM Radio) called 'Barn Dance', first airing in 1925. It's name was changed due to a joke by radio announcer, George Hay, referring to his country music broadcast as a grand opera. ('Barn Dance' followed a classical music show.) To quote, as Hay was introducing Deford Bailey: "For the past hour we have been listening to music largely from Grand Opera. But from now on we will present the Grand Ole Opry." The name stuck, making Bailey its first performer. Bailey made very few recordings, but his first were also in 1927. His career thereafter was largely as a radio performer, WSM Radio in particular, but he quit the music profession altogether in 1941 (though performing on rare occasions) upon being fired by WSM for playing tunes forbidden without contract with ASCAP (the royalties organization). Bailey thereafter made his living renting rooms in his home and shining shoes. Bailey died July 2, 1982.

DeFord Bailey   1927

   Dixie Flyer Blues

DeFord Bailey   1928

   Davidson County Blues

   Ice Water Blues

   John Henry

   Pan American Blues

DeFord Bailey   1967

   Fox Chase

   Pan American Blues



Noah Lewis was a jug band musician who played mouth harp. He left Henning, Tennessee, for Memphis as a teenager, Memphis at the time a Delta blues and jug band hub. It was there he met Gus Cannon in 1907. But it wasn't until two decades later that he, Cannon and Ashley Thompson formed a recording trio called Cannon's Jug Stompers. Lewis was noted for his ability to play two harmonicas at once, one by mouth, the other by nose. Lewis was smitten by frostbite in 1961 in Tennessee, killing him by gangrene.

Noah Lewis  1927

   Devil In the Woodpile

Noah Lewis  1928

   Viola Lee Blues

Noah Lewis  1930

   Like I Want to Be


Birth of the Blues: Noah Lewis

Noah Lewis

L to R: Gus Cannon | Ashley Thomson | Noah Lewis

Source: All About Blues

Birth of the Blues: Memphis Jug Band

Memphis Jug Band

Source: Memphis Flyer

The Memphis Jug Band elementally means Will Shade who was its leader for 39 years (1927 - 1963). Its members coming and going over the years, Shade himself was vocalist and played guitar and harmonica, leading the band until his death on September 18, 1966. The Jug Band is thought to have first recorded on February 24, 1927: 'Sun Brimmers Blues' and 'Stingy Woman Blues', 'Memphis Jug Blues' and 'Newport News Blues'. Though Shade ran the group for decades to come it recorded for only several years, albeit seventy some titles. Lord's disco has them down for a title in Memphis as late as 1935: 'Papa's Got Your Water On'. Wikipedia has Shade's Jug Band on various field recordings years later from 1957 to 1964. Another good discography at Stefan Wirz.

Memphis Jug Band  1927

   Bob Lee Junior Blues

   I'll See You In the Spring

   I Packed My Suitcase, Started To The Train

   State of Tennessee Blues

   Stingy Woman Blues

   Sun Brimmer's Blues

Memphis Jug Band  1928

   Long Papa's Blues

   Stealin' Stealin'

   KC Moan

   On the Road Again

   Peaches In The Springtime

   Sugar Padding

Memphis Jug Band  1930

   Cocaine Habit Blues

Memphis Jug Band  1934

   Insane Crazy Blues



Birth of the Blues: Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell

Scrapper Blackwell   Leroy Carr

Source: bdla


Pianist Leroy Carr formed his famous partnership with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in 1928. Their first release in 1928, 'How Long Blues', was the best-selling blues tune that year. (More Scrapper Blackwell in Blues 1.)

Leroy Carr  1928

   How Long Blues

Leroy Carr  1930

   Papa Wants a Cookie

Leroy Carr   1932

   Midnight Hour Blues

      With Scrapper Blackwell

Leroy Carr  1935

   Rocks In My Bed


Born in Villa Rica, Georgia, in 1899, pianist, Thomas Andrew Dorsey (alias Georgia Tom), had a minister for a father and a piano teacher for a mother. He studied music in Chicago before becoming an agent for Paramount Records. Dorsey formed the Wildcats Jazz Band with Ma Rainey in 1924, with which he toured for three years before making his first recordings, 'Chicago Moan Blues'/'It's Tight Like That', in January of 1928 with Tampa Red. ('It's Tight Like That' would sell seven million copies.) More followed with Red and Rainey in September that year. Dorsey's few recordings, however, aren't the reason he's in this history. Rather, it is his composing, beginning with Rainey, then McKinney's Cotton Pickers. It was his performance at the National Baptist Convention in 1930 that would find him becoming known as the "father" of black gospel music. Whether transported to America from Europe or arising out of the South, though such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers made their rounds in the 19th century, (black) gospel didn't become an especially notable genre in and of itself in recording until the thirties due to such as black gospel artists like Arizona Dranes, the barbershop Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet and Dorsey's ignition of black gospel in Chicago that would become a regular movement of note in the annals of music history. Prior to such, gospel had gained its exposure largely through secular blues and folk musicians. Dorsey's involvement remarked the common roots shared by black gospel and the blues in the troubled waters of black experience, as well as their separate interests and styles. That the blues were for juke joints and gospel for churches was made pointedly clear. Other than forming a choir and the Dorsey House of Music publishing company in 1932, he was elected president of the Gospel Choral Union. The next year in '33 he founded National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. Representative of Dorsey's contribution to early black gospel is such as his composition for Mahalia Jackson in 1937, 'Peace In the Valley'. Dorsey is credited with more than 400 compositions, his early recordings and compositions performed by various artists are easy to find on multiple compilations. Dorsey died on January 23, 1993, in Chicago. Of the samples below with Dorsey at piano, he collaborated in the composition of only 'It's Tight Like That'.

Georgia Tom Dorsey   1928

   It's Tight Like That

      With Tampa Red

   Leaving This Morning

      With Ma Rainey & Tampa Red

   Sweet Rough Man

      With Ma Rainey & Tampa Red

Thomas A Dorsey   1973

   I'll Tell It Wherever I Go

     Vocal: Sallie Martin


Birth of the Blues: Thomas A Dorsey

Thomas A Dorsey (Georgia Tom)

Source: Black Kudos
Born in Arkansas in 1906, pianist Roosevelt Sykes (the Honeydripper) took to the road at age fifteen, playing barrelhouse piano along the Mississippi at sawmills, levee camps, wherever laborers were gathered and a piano could be found. He left St. Louis for New York City in 1929 expressly to make his first recordings. His first issue, '44 Blues', is thought have been that year. Sykes eventually settled in New Orleans in 1954, where he died of heart attack in 1983. (More of Sykes in Rock and Roll 1.)

Roosevelt Sykes  1929

   44 Blues

   All My Money Gone

   Way I Feel Blues

Roosevelt Sykes  1930

   32-20 Blues

Roosevelt Sykes  1936

   Driving Wheel Blues

Roosevelt Sykes  1937

   Night Time Is The Right Time

Roosevelt Sykes  1950

   West Helena Blues

Roosevelt Sykes  1953

   Been Through the Mill

Roosevelt Sykes  1960


   Yes Lawd

Roosevelt Sykes  1973

   Persimmon Pie

      Live performance


Birth of the Blues: Roosevelt Sykes

Roosevelt Sykes

Photo: Doug Fulton

Source: Alchetron


'When You're Smiling, the Whole World Smiles With You' was jazz singer Georgia White's first recording in 1930, performed on May 16 with Jimmy Noone's Apex Club Orchestra. White is thought to have been born in 1903, but for a pianist who recorded well over 100 tracks for Decca very little is known about her. White stayed with Noone's band into early 1931. She also recorded as Georgia Lawson in the thirties. March 13 of !935 witnessed her first tracks for Decca, 'Your Worries Ain't Like Mine' and 'You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now', neither issued. Among issued titles from a session on April 10 were 'Dupree Blues' and 'Dallas Man'. Per above, she would record above 100 titles for Decca in the next six years, But one of numerous highlights arrived in NYC on April 1 of 1938 in the person of guitarist, Lonnie Johnson, they to lay out such as 'Almost Afraid of Love' and 'Crazy Blues'. After her last tracks for Decca White became a club performer with her all-female band. Performing at clubs would see her working with such as Bumble Bee Slim and Big Bill Broonzy, she to eventually end up at the Blue Pub in Chicago in 1959 whence she faded into obscurity. White is thought to have died in 1980.

Georgia White   1936

   Get 'Em From The Peanut Man

   I Just Want To Be Your Stingaree

   Tell Me Baby

   Was I Drunk

Georgia White   1937

   Alley Boogie

   The Stuff Is Here


Birth of the Blues: Georgia White

Georgia White

Source: warholsoup100


Birth of the Blues: Doctor Clayton

Doctor Clayton

Source: Second Hand Songs


Born Peter Joe Clayton in Georgia in 1898, blues singer Doctor Clayton's first recordings in 1935 are unfound for this history. The earliest release listed below is 'Pearl Harbor Blues' in 1942. Clayton was a popular nightclub performer in Chicago for most of his brief career, working alongside such as Robert Lockwood and Sunnyland Slim. He died of tuberculosis in Chicago in January 1947.

Doctor Clayton   1942

   Pearl Harbor Blues

   On the Killin' Floor

Doctor Clayton   1946

   Root Doctor Blues



Birth of the Blues: Rosetta Howard

Rosetta Howard

Source: Douglas Green Associates

Rosetta Howard was born in Woodruff, Arkansas, in 1913. She is thought to have begun her career singing along to a jukebox (invented 1927) in a club where she was employed. She was about 18 (1932) when she began working with jazz guitarist Jimmie Noone (later clarinet) in Chicago. Five years later on May 31, 1937, Howard made her first recording in Chicago with the Harlem Hamfats: 'Empty Bed Blues'. (The Harlem Hamfats were a studio rather than performing group originally configured by record producer, Mayo Williams, its personnel continuously changing as recordings required.) Howard's recording career would last only ten years. Among her last recordings in 1947 were three put down for Columbia on June 10 with Willie Dixon's Big Three Trio consisting of Leonard Caston (piano), Bernardo Dennis (guitar) and Charles Saunders (drums): 'When I Been Drinking', 'Help Me Baby' and 'I Keep on Worrying'. September 3 saw Howard with Dixon's Big Three recording such as 'Where Shall I Go' with Alphonse Walker on drums. Howard's final recordings are thought to have been on December 20 of '47 with Big Bill Broonzy in the group (ostensibly the Harlem Hamfats): 'Sweep Your Blues Away', 'It Was You', 'You made Me Love You' and 'Plow Hand Blues'. Upon retirement encouraged by inability to sell records Howard remained in Chicago, not to sing again but in church, she a Baptist. She died a quarter century or so later on October 18, 1974, in Chicago.

Rosetta Howard   1937

   Rosetta Blues

Rosetta Howard   1938

   The Candy Man

Rosetta Howard   1939

   He´s Mine All Mine

      Clarinet: Barney Bigard   Trumpet: Henry Red Allen

Rosetta Howard   1947

   When I Been Drinkin'

   Ebony Rhapsody

   You Made Me Love You

Rosetta Howard   1948

   I Keep On Worryin'



Born in 1914 in Jackson, Tennessee, harp player Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee Curtis Williamson) also played guitar, first recording in 1937 with 'Good Morning Little School Girl'. Williamson made Chicago his home in 1934. He made his last recording in 1947 with Big Joe Williams, his career sliced short the next year upon being murdered during a robbery as he was walking home from a performance at the Plantation Club, he only 34 years of age. (There is no relation between Sonny Boy Williamson I and Sonny Boy Williamson II.)

Sonny Boy Williamson I   1937

   Good Morning Little School Girl

Sonny Boy Williamson I   1941

   Good Gal Blues

Sonny Boy Williamson I   1945

   Wild Cow Moan

      With Big Joe Williams


Birth of the Blues: Sonny Boy Williamson I

Sonny Boy Williamson I

Source: Bio


With Sonny Boy Williamson I we pause this history of early blues music. We will be making additions as such occur.



Early Blues 1: Guitar

Early Blues 2: Vocal - Other Instruments

Modern Blues 1: Guitar

Modern Blues 2: Vocal - Other Instruments

Modern Blues 3: Black Gospel Appendix


Medieval - Renaissance


Galant - Classical

Romantic: Composers born 1770 to 1840

Romantic - Impressionist

Expressionist - Modern

Modern: Composers born 1900 to 1950




Country Western


Early Jazz 1: Ragtime - Bands - Horn

Early Jazz 2: Ragtime - Other Instrumentation

Early Jazz 3: Ragtime - Song - Hollywood

Swing Era 1: Big Bands

Swing Era 2: Song

Modern 1: Saxophone

Modern 2: Trumpet - Other Horn

Modern 3: Piano

Modern 4: Guitar - Other String

Modern 5: Percussion - Other Orchestration

Modern 6: Song

Modern 7: Latin Jazz - Latin Recording

Modern 8: United States 1960 - 1970

Modern 9: International 1960 - 1970

Rock & Roll

Early - Boogie Woogie - R&B - Soul - Disco

Doo Wop

The Big Bang - Fifties American Rock

UK Beat

British Invasion

Total War - Sixties American Rock

Other Musical Genres - Popular Music Appendix

Musician Indexes

Classical - Medieval to Renaissance

Classical - Baroque to Classical

Classical - Romantic to Modern

The Blues

Bluegrass - Folk

Country Western

Jazz Early - Ragtime - Swing Jazz

Jazz Modern - Horn

Jazz Modern - Piano - String

Jazz Modern - Percussion - Song - Other

Boogie Woogie - Doo Wop - R&B - Rock & Roll - Soul

Jazz Modern - 1960 to 1970

UK Beat - British Invasion

Sixties American Rock - Popular

Latin Recording - Europe

Latin Recording - The Caribbean - South America


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