Musician. Going by her nickname, Memphis Minnie, she was a blues vocalist, blues guitarist, and influential blues songwriter. Her career, which spans from the 1920s to the 1950s, shaped the face of music. Writing and singing nearly 200 songs, perhaps her best known being “Bumble Bee”, “Nothing in Rambling”, and “Me and My Chauffeur Blues”, she left a legacy behind her that can still be heard in contemporary music. In 1910, she ran away from home and found her way to Memphis, TN. This is where she learned to play the guitar and started performing for local venues. From there, she grew into a style all her own. She suffered a stroke in 1960 and with declining health, ended up in a nursing home in Memphis. In 1973, she once again had another stroke, this time causing her death. She was buried in an unmarked grave until in 1996, fellow musician, Bonnie Raitt purchased and erected a headstone for her.
She is one of the most incredible figures in blues history, on account of she straddles so many different KINDS of blues (yes, I pretty much meant that verb). Her recording career started in 1929. What is interesting to me is that she entered the field when it was dominated by female singers and some of her records have that classic blues orchestration (largely piano driven). BUT (here’s where she’s almost entirely unique) she’s even better known for playing the rural style of Delta country blues; she didn’t just sing but she played guitar, and that was a field entirely dominated by men . Furthermore, her career went long enough that she also entered the era of amplification and, the more urban big city Chicago blues of the sort we associate with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf etc etc that eventually led to rock ‘n’ roll). She is a bridge to everywhere.
Memphis Minnie grew up in Mississippi and Louisiana, started playing the banjo at age 10, and ran off to play guitar of Beale Street sidewalks in Memphis by age 13. (She also turned tricks to support herself — and her rough lifestyle shows up in her songs, whoo boy, did she record some dirty and rough and funny songs). She is also said to have toured for four years with Ringling Brothers Circus (1916-1920) as a musician.
- June, 03, 1897
- Algiers, Louisiana,
- August, 06, 1973
- Memphis, Tennessee
Cause of Death
- New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery
- Southaven, Mississippi,