Memphis Minnie biography –
Memphis Minnie Born: June 3, 1897, Algiers, Louisiana
Died: August 6, 1973, Memphis, Tennessee
Also known as: Lizzie Douglas
Memphis Minnie was an accomplished guitarist, banjo player, vocalist and songwriter whose career was long and prolific, and she won the enduring respect of her contemporaries, male and female. Her talent had an impact on Memphis’s famed Beale Street blues community as well as both the pre-war and post-war Chicago blues scene. She established herself on Beale Street during the 1920s, then moved to Chicago in 1930, where she reportedly regularly won guitar playing competitions, beating out the best of them, including Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, and Muddy Waters. In addition to her superb musicianship, her performance featured rich vocals with a deep, full tone. Her songwriting, often conveying a purely female perspective, was as gutsy and suggestive as any of her male counterparts, and many of her originals have become classics. Among her many contributions to the blues, she was also known for her kindness and generosity toward up and coming blues musicians. In 1971 Led Zeppelin recorded its take on her original “When the Levee Breaks” — a testament to the timeless appeal of her music.
Essential listening: “Bumble Bee,” “I’d Rather See Him Dead,” “Moaning the Blues,” “When the Levee Breaks,” “Hoodoo Lady”
Memphis Minnie photo gallery