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Lucille Bogan biography –

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. Bogan sang straight-talking blues about drinking Sloppy Drunk Blues, prostitution Tricks Ain’t Walking No More, gambling, lesbianism and other facets of what her generation called ‘the life’. The jazz critic and sexologist Ernest Borneman grouped her with Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith in the “the big three of the blues” She was born Lucille Anderson in Amory, Mississippi in 1897, 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, Georgia, 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 waxed her first big success, Sweet Petunia, which was later covered by Blind Blake. She also recorded for Brunswick Records, backed by Tampa Red and Cow Cow Davenport. By 1930 her recordings had begun to concentrate on drinking and sex, with songs such as Sloppy Drunk Blues – covered by Leroy 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, Robert Nighthawk, Pinetop Perkins, 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. Her outspoken lyrics dealt with sexuality in a manner that manages to raise eyebrows. Around 1932 she returned to Birmingham, and, apparently to conceal her identity, began recording as Bessie Jackson for the Banner (ARC) record 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”. The music and melody of the traditional women’s blues song, I Know You Rider, are similar to Bogan’s B.D. Woman Blues, although the lyrics are completely different. 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, California shortly before her death from coronary sclerosis in 1948. Her final composition was Gonna Leave Town, which turned out to be quite a prophetic title. By the time Smokey Hogg cut the tune in 1949, Jackson really had left town, having died the previous year. She is interred at the Lincoln Memorial Park, Compton, Los Angeles County, California.

Lucille Bogan photo gallery

  Lucille Bogan