More divas are making their way to my website to be recognized for their achievements and life. These paintings are rendered using original photographs of these ladies. Gicleé prints on canvas are available. Contact me for prices and sizes.
1897 - 1973
Buried in Walls, MS.
This painting is on Beale Street
Tracking down the ultimate woman blues guitar hero is problematic because woman blues singers seldom recorded as guitar players and woman guitar players (such as Rosetta Tharpe and Sister O.M. Terrell) were seldom recorded playing blues. Excluding contemporary artists, the most notable exception to this pattern was Memphis Minnie. The most popular and prolific blueswoman outside the vaudeville tradition, she earned the respect of critics, the support of record-buying fans, and the unqualified praise of the blues artists she worked with throughout her long career. Despite her Southern roots and popularity, she was as much a Chicago blues artist as anyone in her day. Big Bill Broonzy recalls her beating both him and Tampa Red in a guitar contest and claims she was the best woman guitarist he had ever heard. Tough enough to endure in a hard business, she earned the respect of her peers with her solid musicianship and recorded good blues over four decades for Columbia, Vocalion, Bluebird, OKeh, Regal, Checker, and JOB. She also proved to have as good taste in musical husbands as music and sustained working marriages with guitarists Casey Bill Weldon, Joe McCoy, and Ernest Lawlars. Their guitar duets span the spectrum of African-American folk and popular music, including spirituals, comic dialogs, and old-time dance pieces, but Memphis Minnie's best work consisted of deep blues like "Moaning the Blues." More than a good woman blues guitarist and singer, Memphis Minnie holds her own against the best blues artists of her time, and her work has special resonance for today's aspiring guitarists.holds her own against the best blues artists of her time, and her work has special resonance for today's aspiring guitarists.
—Artist Biography by Barry Lee Pearson
Memphis Minnie is considered by many to be the best female blues singer of all time. Guitar player and blues singer, she not only ranks along with the blues' best female artists, but also along with the best male blues artists as well. She was among the first twenty performers elected to the Hall of Fame in the inaugural W. C. Handy awards in 1980 (Garon, 1991).
Around 1904, Minnie (born Lizzie Douglas) and her family moved to a farm in Wall, Mississippi, which is just south of Memphis, Tennessee. She received her first guitar in 1905 as a Christmas present. She was soon playing guitar and banjo, and sometime during her early teens began running away from home to play on Memphis' Beale Street. During the war, she began touring the south with a Ringling Brothers show to gain experience (Garon, 1992).
Minnie was as tough a drinker and blues singer as any man. She returned to Memphis in the 20s where, accompanied by her guitarist, second husband Kansas Joe McCoy, she was discovered on Beale Street by Columbia Records in 1929. Later that year, she recorded her first song, one of her most successful tunes, "Bumble Bee."
Minnie and Joe soon became part of the growing Chicago blues scene after moving to the city in 1930. Minnie recorded for a number of labels and with a number of blues men before illness forced her to retire in the mid-50s. She moved back to Memphis where she spent the remainder of her life until she died of a stroke in 1973 (Santelli, 1993). She is buried in Walls, MS, just south of Memphis.