Edith Wilson was one of the early ‘Divas’ who recorded Blues songs for the newly discovered ‘race market‘ in the early 20s. She had quite a few hit records and went on to find fame in the entertainment industry as a singer on stage and in nightclubs. She toured widely with her comedy revues, sang in front of some of the biggest swing bands of the era, and developed an acting career in films, on radio and in TV. Later she retired to do ‘good works’ but made a comeback that saw her take to the stage again in her 80s.
The radio show ‘Amos & Andy’ gave Edith a long-running role as Kingfish’s hectoring mother-in-law, and she played opposite Bogart and Bacall in the film ‘To Have and Have Not’, as well as appearing in several network TV shows. She may be best remembered on TV and radio as ‘Aunt Jemima’, the voice and face of Quaker pancake mix, a heavily stereotyped role she played with heart and dignity. By 1963, Edith had retired from performing to become secretary of the Negro Actors Guild as well as other work for charities and literary organisations. She was tempted back to the microphone ten years later to record and perform with Little Brother Montgomery, Eubie Blake and others, cutting a solo album for Delmark in 1976. Her last public appearance was at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1980, and she passed away the following year, aged 84.