Hadda Brooks was known as the “Queen of the Boogie” and the “Empress of the Torch Blues.”
Brooks was born “Hadda Riah Hopgood” in 1916 to affluent parents in Los Angeles. Her mother was a doctor which was quite rare for black women during the early 1900s and her father was one of the first black people to serve as a deputy sheriff. Her father was of fair complexion and could pass for white.
By the age of four, Brooks was taking piano lessons. Her talent soon landed her a spot at Los Angeles’s Polytechnic High School, where most of the young aspiring musicians attended. After graduation, she enrolled at Northwestern University in Chicago and later returned to Chapman College in California to continue her music training.
Her first professional employment as a musician was as a piano player for the Willie Covan Dance Studio in Los Angeles where she earned $10 a week.
In 1945, while browsing in a music store she was approached by a man standing near while she played the piano. He asked if she could work up a boogie for him to record, he would pay her $800. She did and the man, Jules Bihari recorded it.
Brooks’ first recording “Swingin’ the Boogie” was an instant hit. She dropped Hopgood and adopted the stage name Brooks and began spinning out records. She soon earned the title of “Queen of the Boogie.”
Brooks became a regular on the club circuit and performed with big names such as Artie Shaw and the Count Basie Orchestra. Her most famous songs are Swingin’ the Boogie, That’s My Desire, Romance in the Dark, and Don’t Take Your Love From Me.