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Memphis Minnie biography



Memphis Minnie (June 3, 1897 – August 6, 1973 Career Born Lizzie Douglas in Algiers, Louisiana, Minnie was one of the most influential and pioneering female blues musicians and guitarists of all time. She recorded for forty years, almost unheard of for any woman in show business at the time and unique among female blues artists. A flamboyant character who wore bracelets made of silver dollars, she was a very popular blues recording artist from the early Depression years through World War II. One of the first generation of blues artists to take up the electric guitar, in 1942, she combined her Louisiana-country roots with Memphis blues to produce her own unique country-blues sound; along with Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red, she took country blues into electric urban blues, paving the way for Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Little Walter, and Jimmy Rogers to travel from the small towns of the south to the big cities of the north. According to some reports she was married three times, each time to an accomplished blues guitarist: Kansas Joe McCoy later of the Harlem Hamfats, possibly Casey Bill Weldon (though there is little if any evidence for this), and Ernest "Little Son Joe" Lawlers. After learning to play guitar and banjo as a child, she ran away from home at the age of thirteen. She travelled to Memphis, Tennessee, playing guitar in nightclubs and on the street as Lizzie "Kid" Douglas. The next year, she joined the Ringling Brothers circus. Her marriage and recording debut came in 1929, to and with Kansas Joe McCoy, when a Columbia Records talent scout heard them playing in a Beale Street barbershop in their distinctive 'Memphis style,' and their song "Bumble Bee" became a hit. Later in the 1940s Minnie lived in Indianapolis, Indiana and Detroit, Michigan, returning to Chicago in the early 1950s. Death Memphis Minnie's grave (2008)After her health began to fail in the mid 1950s, Minnie returned to Memphis and retired from performing and recording. She spent her twilight years in a nursing home, where she died of a stroke in 1973 in Memphis, Tennessee. She is buried at the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery in Walls, DeSoto County, Mississippi. A headstone paid for by Bonnie Raitt was erected by the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund on 13 October 1996 with 35 family members in attendance including her sister, numerous nieces and nephews. The ceremony was taped for broadcast by the BBC. Laverne Baker was one of those nieces. Her headstone is marked: Lizzie "Kid" Douglas Lawlers aka Memphis Minnie The inscription on the back of her gravestone reads: "The hundreds of sides Minnie recorded are the perfect material to teach us about the blues. For the blues are at once general, and particular, speaking for millions, but in a highly singular, individual voice. Listening to Minnie's songs we hear her fantasies, her dreams, her desires, but we will hear them as if they were our own." Selective discography 1988 I Ain't No Bad Gal Blues Portrait "You Need A Friend", "Can't Afford To Loose My Man", "Me and My Chauffeur Blues", "Looking The World Over", and more 1997 Me & My Chauffeur 1935–1946 with Little Son Joe Blues Epm Musique "Hoodoo Lady", "Hot Stuff", "My And My Chauffeur Blues", "My Baby Don't Want Me No More", and more 2000 Pickin' the Blues with Kansas Joe McCoy Blues Culture Press "Bumble Bee", "When The Levee Breaks", "Joe Louis Strut", "Crazy Cryin' Blues", "Picking The Blues", "Ma Rainey", and more Legacy Minnie lived to see her reputation revive in the 1960s as part of the general revival of interest in the blues. In 1980, she was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame. There's also a Barbeque Joint and Smokehouse in San Francisco named after Minnie. Songs "When the Levee Breaks", a 1929 Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy song, was later covered (with slightly altered lyrics and a different melody) by Led Zeppelin and released in 1971 on their fourth album. The same song was used by Bob Dylan for his song "The Levee's Gonna Break", on the 2006 album Modern Times. The band "A Perfect Circle" remixed the song for their covers album "eMotive" in 2004. "When the Levee Breaks" was played in the movie Ghost World, and Minnie was mentioned several times throughout the film. Other songs by Memphis Minnie include: "Bumble Bee Blues", "Hoodoo Lady", "I'm Gonna Bake My Biscuit" and "I Want Something For You".