The Roaming Blues Queen: Memphis Minnie Pt. 2

0 Posted by - November 27, 2023 - BLACK MUSIC, BLACK WOMEN, ENTERTAINMENT

Memphis Minnie continued recording with throughout the late 1930s with Vocalion while backed by Kansas Joe’s brother, the mandolin player Papa Charlie and her husband, a singer named Little Son Joe. By the time the 1940s rolled around, they had moved to OKeh Records as well as back to Columbia. The electric guitar had become a major progression in mainstream string instruments and musicians were taking to it ushering in the electric blues era.

Because her reputation in blues music had increased, Memphis Minnie was able to demand more on recordings and shows. She also had residences in the Great Lakes area–especially Detroit so that she could make Chicago shows regularly. Clubs would start to bring in young, raw artists who requested less money from established veterans who could request what they desired.


Since she could request more on recordings, Minnie was eventually dropped by Columbia which was moving away from blues. She found herself on Regal Records which started up in 1947 and was putting out post-WWII jazz mostly. She also arrived at J.O.B which was geared towards southern blues and Checker, formed by the Chess brothers who ran Chess Records.

These labels allowed for Memphis Minnie to continue performing and continue to make some money, but far from what she was making at her peak. This along with poor health and fan interest dwindling resulted in Minnie and Little Son Joe returning to Memphis. By the end of the 1950s, she had pretty much retired as an active, traveling musician.

Memphis Minnie’s final years saw her survive a 1960 stroke, the death of Ernest “Little Son Joe” Lawlers in 1961, continued declining wealth. She had little money from her vast career to live on and was able to live thanks to donations.

Lizzie “Memphis Minnie” Douglas Lawlers died as a result of a stroke on August 6, 1973.




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