- Hits: 1937
Date of Birth: April 1, 1897
Place of Birth: Amory, Mississippi
Date of Death: August 10,1948
Born Lucille Anderson, April 1, 1897, in Amory Mississippi, she was raised as Lucille Anderson in Birmingham, Alabama. Bogan was one of the toughest female blues singers of the pre-war era.
She started to record as early as 1923 working with a string of gifted pianists including Cow Cow Davenport, Will Ezell and, particularly, Walter Roland. After 1933 she recorded as Bessie Jackson, producing some of her best work between then and 1935 in the company of Walter Roland.
She became known for her raucous sometimes obscene lyrics frequently associated with the lifestyle of the "street-walker". She was married at least once, to one Nazareth Bogan, and was the mother of two children.
After her own career ended she managed Bogan's Birmingham Busters, a group organized by her son. In later life she moved to the west coast where she died of coronary sclerosis in August 10,1948.
Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Lucille Bogan (April 1, 1897 – August 10, 1948) was an American blues singer, among the first to be recorded. She also recorded under the pseudonym Bessie Jackson. She was born Lucille Anderson in Amory, Mississippi, and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1916 she married Nazareth Lee Bogan, a railwayman, and gave birth to a son.
She first recorded vaudeville songs for Okeh Records in New York in 1923, with pianist Henry Callens. Later that year she recorded "Pawn Shop Blues" in Atlanta, which was the first time a black blues singer had been recorded outside New York or Chicago. In 1927 she began recording for Paramount Records in Chicago, where she recorded her first big success, "Sweet Petunia", which was covered by Blind Blake. She also recorded for Brunswick Records, backed by Tampa Red andCow Cow Davenport.
By 1930 her recordings had begun to concentrate on drinking and sex, with songs such as "Sloppy Drunk Blues" (covered byLeroy Carr and others) and "Tricks Ain't Walkin' No More" (later recorded by Memphis Minnie). She also recorded the original version of "Black Angel Blues", which (as "Sweet Little Angel") was covered by B.B. King and many others. Trained in the rowdier juke joints of the 1920s, many of Bogan's songs, most of which she wrote herself, have thinly-veiled humorous sexual references. The theme of prostitution, in particular, features prominently in several of her recordings.
In 1933 she returned to New York, and, apparently to conceal her identity, began recording as Bessie Jackson for the Banner (ARC) label. She was usually accompanied on piano by Walter Roland, with whom she recorded over 100 songs between 1933 and 1935, including some of her biggest commercial successes including "Seaboard Blues", "Troubled Mind", and "Superstitious Blues".
Her other songs included "Stew Meat Blues", "Coffee Grindin' Blues", "My Georgia Grind", "Honeycomb Man", "Mr. Screw Worm In Trouble", and "Bo Hog Blues". Her final recordings with Roland and Josh White included two takes of "Shave 'Em Dry", recorded in New York on Tuesday March 5, 1935. The unexpurgated alternate take is notorious for its explicit sexual references, a unique record of the lyrics sung in after-hours adult clubs. Another of her songs, "B.D. Woman's Blues", takes the position of a "bull dyke" ("B.D."), with the line "Comin' a time, B.D. women, they ain't gonna need no men".
She appears not to have recorded after 1935, and spent some time managing her son's jazz group, Bogan's Birmingham Busters, before moving to Los Angeles shortly before her death from coronary sclerosis in 1948.
Lucille Bogan possessed one of the finest voices of any female blues singer. Although her early work was inspired by the vaudeville stylists, with age and experience her voice deepened and her expression matured. Her best work, with superb support from Walter Roland, shows off her majestic voice to full advantage.
She was born Lucille Anderson at Amory, Monroe County, Mississippi on 1 April 1897. As she sang in TIRED AS I CAN BE, she came "from the Black Belt", which was a band of fertile land running in a crescent down the north-east border of Mississippi and almost entirely across the center of Alabama.
Lucille had moved to Birmingham before 1916, and had married Nazareth Lee Bogan, senior. She had a son, Nazareth Lee Bogan, Jr. (born in 1916); and a stepdaughter, Ira Betty (born 1911, daughter of the late Estelle Ward Bogan). Lucille was the aunt of pianist and trumpet-player Thomas "Big Music" Anderson. Her husband Nazareth was a locomotive fireman living in Birmingham by 1922. He apparently traveled the route through Amory between Kansas City and Birmingham, Alabama.
Her first recordings were made for OKeh at New York City in early June 1923, together with pianist Henry C. Callens. They were vaudeville songs, among them two songs that had recently been recorded by Viola McCoy. Her son recalled that in her early days Ida Cox and Bessie Smith influenced her.
Later in June 1923, Lucille recorded a vaudeville-styled blues, PAWN SHOP BLUES, for OKeh at Atlanta, backed by Eddie Heywood, Sr., playing piano. This was the first "territory" recording (that is, one made outside New York City or Chicago) by a black blues singer. PAWN SHOP BLUES was soon "covered" by Martha Copeland.
Harry Charles told Gayle Dean Wardlow that Lucille went to Harry's office at Birmingham in 1927 to inquire about making records, and that Charles took Lucille and pianist Alex Channey to be recorded at Chicago, Illinois. Her first session for Paramount was the only one featuring Channey. It produced SWEET PETUNIA, an influential song which was later adapted by Vance Dixon (also with Alex Channey), Blind Blake, Willie Baker, Curley Weaver, and others.
Charles claimed that Lucille had an affair at Chicago with pianist Will Ezell, whom she met at Chicago. Ezell accompanied her for Paramount in 1927, the session also featuring Papa Charlie Jackson.
As a result of her affair with Ezell, Harry Charles reported that she was involved in divorce proceedings brought by her husband, but Betty reports that Lucille and Nazareth were still together as late as 1941. Nazareth Bogan Jr. recalled that he and his mother, Lucille, did move to Chicago in the late 1920s, and that she recorded there. Significantly, Ezell is the only pianist who was remembered by name by her son.
In 1928, Lucille recorded for Brunswick, backed by Tampa Red and probably Cow Cow Davenport.
An unknown pianist, possibly Reuben Walker, Eddie Miller, or Lucille herself, backed her for an unreleased Brunswick session in early 1930. Judging from the titles, this session seems to mark the start of the intense concern with sexual themes, which mark her most popular recordings.
Another session took place soon afterwards, producing SLOPPY DRUNK BLUES and ALLEY BOOGIE, which became influential after being reissued by the American Record Corporation labels during the depression.
SLOPPY DRUNK BLUES was remade by Leroy Carr; by Bumble Bee Slim; by Sonny Boy Williamson; by Jimmy Rogers; and by others. ALLEY BOOGIE was remade by Georgia White.
Lucille recorded a final Brunswick session in December 1930, again with an unknown pianist, possibly Eddie Miller, James Williams or Reuben Walker. This session produced the highly influential BLACK ANGEL BLUES and TRICKS AIN'T WALKIN' NO MORE. Memphis Minnie revived Bogan's TRICKS AIN'T WALKING NO MORE.
Apart from the obvious derivations of BLACK ANGEL BLUES (usually as SWEET LITTLE ANGEL) by performers such as Tampa Red, Robert Nighthawk, B. B. King, Earl Hooker and countless others, there is the more subtle reworking by Lowell Fulson as LOVE 'N' THINGS.
In February 1932, reissues of songs from her last two Brunswick sessions appeared under the nom-de-disc BESSIE JACKSON, possibly reissued partly as a result of Minnie's cover of TRICKS AIN'T WALKING NO MORE.
By 1934, Lucille was again residing at Birmingham with her husband.
W. R. Calaway was responsible for Lucille's later recordings, which were made under the previously successful nom-de-disc BESSIE JACKSON, at New York City for Banner (otherwise called American Record Corporation) commencing on 17 July 1933. It is those recordings that featured the outstanding pianist Walter Roland, and mark the highest point of her recording career. The most successful sides, judging from their issue by Conqueror as well as by the usual American Record Corporation labels, were: SEABOARD BLUES; TROUBLED MIND; GROCERIES ON THE SHELF; and of SUPERSTITIOUS BLUES.
Sonny Scott was also present during the first group of sessions. The three of them (Bogan, Roland and Scott) contributed comments or music for sides made at those sessions under the credit JOLLY JIVERS. These sides, which featured Roland playing piano, comprise JOOKIT JOOKIT; PIANO STOMP; WHATCHA GONNA DO?; and HUNGRY MAN'S SCUFFLE.
A further group of sessions with backing by Roland, together with singer/guitarist Bob Campbell, was held in July and August 1934 at New York City. The sides reissued by Conqueror were: SWEET MAN, SWEET MAN; and DOWN IN BOOGIE ALLEY.
I HATE THAT TRAIN CALLED THE M & O seems to have provided the melody of (Kid) Prince Moore's BUG JUICE BLUES.
Finally, a group of sessions, featuring Walter Roland and Josh White as accompanists, was held at New York City in March 1935. Lucille and Walter may have met Josh at the sessions. This group of sessions produced THAT'S WHAT MY BABY LIKES (revived postwar by Marylin Scott for Lance #1039) and MAN STEALER BLUES, both of which were reissued by Conqueror.
The sessions also produced two versions, one unexpurgated, of SHAVE 'EM DRY. The unexpurgated version has been preserved in two acetates, apparently merely taken at different playback speeds and representing differing levels of preservation. Josh White's widow has recalled Josh recording in about 1935 in the studio with "Bessie Smith" (almost certainly Bessie Jackson), who danced barefoot in the studio during the session.
A number of songs from her American Record Corporation sessions were unreleased, but apparently some of them still exist in the Sony archives.
Lucille's son Nazareth reported that she had made recordings at Birmingham, Alabama in 1937 but no trace of them has been found in the American Record Corporation (now Sony Columbia) files after careful inspection of the recording ledgers for the Birmingham session. She was then reputedly managing her son's jazz group BOGAN'S BIRMINGHAM BUSTERS, which recorded at the Birmingham session.
Lucille may have managed another group under the same name in 1938, but including Martin Barnett; Clarence Curly; Lee Golden; and Robert McCoy.
Her stepdaughter Betty reports that Betty was visiting her father and stepmother when they split up, shortly after Pearl Harbor, late in 1941.
Lucille sold her house at Birmingham in mid-1948 and moved to the Los Angeles area of California with her de facto husband, James Spencer, a much younger man. Her son's wife's cousin had moved there, Nazareth Jr. had followed him, and Lucille in turn followed her son.
She composed GONNA LEAVE TOWN, recorded as by SMOKEY HOGG And His Guitar for Specialty in 1949.
By that time, Lucille had died at home at Los Angeles of coronary sclerosis on 10 August 1948. She was buried without a grave marker at Compton, California. Plans are under way to provide a grave marker for this wonderful blues singer.