Memphis Minnie Queen of the Blues
Memphis Minnie Queen of the Blues hailed from Algiers, Louisiana. She ran away from home while she was only 13 and headed for the famous Beale Street in Memphis, occasionally going home whenever she ran short of money! Her talent first showed in 1916 when she joined the Ringling Brothers Circus and toured the south with them for four years.
In the late 20s, Memphis Minnie and her second husband began singing together and were soon discovered by a talent scout of Columbia Records, singing in front of a barber shop for a pittance. They were sent to record in New York and the A&R people from Columbia Records gave them the name of Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie.
In February 1930 they recorded the song ‘Bumble Bee’ for the famous Vocalion label.
At the start of the 1940s Minnie was a stalwart at Chicago’s 708 Club and was often joined by Big Bill Broonzy, Sunnyland Slim and others. In Big Bill Broonzy’s book ‘Big Bill Blues’, he recalls a contest between himself and Memphis Minnie. The prize being a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of gin. Each singer was to sing 2 songs, Broonzy sang ‘Just a Dream’ and ‘Make My Getaway’, but, Minnie won the prize with ‘Me and My Chauffeur Blues’ and ‘Looking The World Over’.
Memphis Minnie continued recording into the 1950s, but she was plagued with ill health. In 1960, she suffered a stroke which left her less mobile and needed constant support of a wheelchair.
She spent most of her final years in the Jell Nursing Home, Memphis and went home after suffering another stroke in 1973. She was laid to rest at the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery, Walls, DeSoto County, Mississippi and a headstone was paid for by another great blues lady, Bonnie Raitt.
Memphis Minnie: Website