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  • Chrissy Hamlin

Ladies Sing the Blues - Part One

In September 2021 we chose the theme "Ladies Sing The Blues" be the first "Women's History Weekend Spotlight Feature" on our social media accounts. Over 48 hours we posted potted biographies and slideshows of some of the lesser known pioneering female blues singers & musicians of the early 20th Century. On Part One you can see everything we shared last month, with links for further reading, watching, and listening. Part Two of this blog post will be published shortly and will feature more stories about Ladies Who Sing The Blues.....


Bertha "Chippie" Hill was an American blues singer who was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1905. She began her career as a dancer in Harlem & by 1919 she was working with Ethel Waters and Ma Rainey. She was nicknamed "Chippie" because of her youth.

In 1925, she settled in Chicago, where she worked with King Oliver's Jazz Band & first recorded for Okeh Records, where she was backed by Louis Armstrong. In the 1930s she retired from singing to raise her seven children, but then staged a comeback in 1946.

She sang on the radio & in clubs. As well as performing in a concert in 1948 at Carnegie Hall, she also sang at the Paris Jazz Festival.

In 1950 she was hit by a car & died in New York at the age of 45.

Hear her sing "Trouble in Mind"

Further Reading and Links


Mildred Bailey was a native American Jazz singer who grew up on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation in Idaho. In the 1930s, she was known as "The Queen of Swing", "The Rockin' Chair Lady" & "Mrs. Swing". She came from a musical family - her father played fiddle & her mother played piano.

When her mother died & her father remarried, she went to live with an Aunt in Seattle, who tragically died in a car accident. This left 17 year old Mildred, who at the time was working as a sheet music demonstrator at Woolworths, with physical & mental scars.

Bailey then went to California & got a job singing at a radio station & at The Swede's Speakeasy. She also got work in L.A for her musician brother, Al Rinker & his friend Bing Crosby, who then introduced her to band leader Paul Whiteman, whom she sang with from 1929 - 1933. Bailey left the band over salary disagreements.

In 1933, Bailey married band leader Red Norvo. A dynamic couple, they remained married until 1942 & stayed friends after their divorce.

In 1949 she retired to live on a farm she owned in Poughkeepsie, New York. When she found herself n financial difficulties, she was helped out by her good friend, Bing Crosby.

Bailey suffered from diabetes & was hospitalized in 1938, 1943, & 1949. She died of heart failure, aged 44, in 1951. In 1994, a stamp was issued by the US Postal Service in Bailey's honor.

Listen to Mildred Bailey singing "Me and the Blues" ( 1946)

Further Reading and Links


Sippie Wallace was known as "The Texas Nightingale" and between the years of 1923 & 1927, she recorded over 40 songs for Okeh Records.

Beulah Belle Thomas, was born on November 1, 1898. She was one of 13 children. Two of her brothers were pianists & composers she wrote songs with them. As a child, she sang & played the piano in the Shiloh Baptist Church, where her father was a deacon.

In her teens, she was regularly performing in travelling Blues "tent shows" in Texas.

In 1917 she married Matt Wallace. Then in 1923, Sippie & her brothers Hersel & George Thomas, all went to Chicago, to sign a recording contract with Okeh Records.

Hersel died of food poisoning in 1926. and in 1929 Sippie and her husband Matt moved to Detroit. Matt died in 1936, then Sippie's brother, George, died in 1937, in a car accident.

For the next 40 years, Wallace stepped out of the public spotlight and was a singer & organist at the Leland Baptist Church in Detroit - then in 1966, she launched a comeback.

In 1966, Wallace toured on the folk & blues festival circuit, recorded an album "Women Be Wise" & contributed to the album "Louis Armstrong & the Blues Singers".

Wallace was featured in the 1982 documentary "Jammin' with the Blues Greats".

In March 1986, following a concert at a Jazz Festival in Germany, she suffered a stroke & was hospitalized. She returned to the USA, & died on her 88th birthday at Sinai Hospital in Detroit.

Watch Sippie Wallace singing "Women be Wise"

Further Reading and Links



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