A ‘Drag King’ who sings the Blues is a rare item! Gladys Bentley was a male impersonator who sang and played piano on the New York gay club scene in the late 20s in places like The Clam House and The Ubangi Club. She was a big woman who wore a tuxedo and top hat as she belted out the Blues tunes of the day with her own suggestive lyrics added. She had a deep voice and used a trumpet-like scat to accompany herself, sometimes leaving the stage to flirt hilariously at the tables and sometimes getting into trouble as a result, certainly in terms of press reviews!
Gladys continued to record, touring all over the States, and in 1950 she went on Groucho Marx’s TV show ‘You Bet Your Life’, where she performed a rollicking version of ‘Them There Eyes’, dressed as a glamorous woman. In 1952, she claimed to have undertaken medical treatment and announced in the press, “I Am a Woman Again!”, but it should be noted that at that time the McCarthy ‘witch-hunts’ were making life very difficult for anyone in the public eye who was thought to be ‘Un-American’. She passed away in Los Angeles in 1960.