EVA TAYLOR

Irene Gibbons was born in St. Louis, but by the time she recorded her first Blues songs for the Black Swan label in New York in 1922, she had already had a long career. She toured with vaudeville troupes in the USA, Europe and the South Pacific beginning as a 3-year-old child. When she got…

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ALBERTA HUNTER

Alberta Hunter had a truly remarkable career. She started out singing in Chicago clubs at the age of 12; she was one of the original big selling Blues Divas who also wrote Bessie Smith‘s first hit; she had a four decade stage and cabaret career; she toured the world in WWII entertaining the Forces; she…

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ETHEL WATERS

Ethel Waters a.k.a. ‘Sweet Mama Stringbean’ was an early Blues Diva who went on to a long career as a jazz singer in vaudeville, in nightclubs, then in movies and eventually as a stage actress. With a gift for phrasing that gave her songs a distinctive swing, Ethel was a rival to Bessie Smith as…

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VICTORIA SPIVEY

Victoria Spivey was one of the Blues Divas who dominated the market for ‘Race Music‘ in the 20’s, but her talents as a businesswoman, songwriter and performer kept her in the business all her life. Born in Houston in 1906, Victoria Regina Spivey was brought up surrounded by music, as her father had a successful…

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MA RAINEY

Ma Rainey could make a good claim to be the first Blues singer. Not blessed with good looks, but always dressed to kill, she could belt out a Blues song with power and passion. In 1902, aged about 16, she was touring the South singing in a Minstrel Show with her parents. One evening near…

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BESSIE SMITH

Bessie Smith had a strong voice with a full-throated delivery, a delicate sense of  phrasing, a good ear for a song and a commanding personal presence. Her millions of record sales and non-stop touring to packed houses made her the most influential Blues singer of the 1920s, whose records ‘crossed over’ to white audiences. In…

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