Luella Miller 1926 – 1928
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The Complete Recorded Works (1926 1928)
Featuring the recordings of:
Luella Miller, vocal; accompanied probably by James Johnson, piano; Lonnie Johnson, violin on 1, 4, 7 / guitar on 2, 3, 5, 6, 8. Luella Miller vocal; accompanied possibly by Dewey Jackson or probably Andrew “Big Babe” Webb, cornet on 9, 10, 14, 15, 16; unknown, violin on 12, 13; Lonnie Johnson, guitar on 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16; unknown, banjo on 11, 14, 15, 16. Luella Miller, vocal; accompanied possibly Elmore Booker, piano. Luella Miller, vocal; accompanied unknown, piano; possibly Al Miller, guitar; possibly Edward Hill, mandolin. Luella Miller, vocal; accompanied “Mr. Jimmy” (poss. James Johnson or Jimmy Blythe), piano; unknown, violin on 23; possibly Al Miller, guitar on 23; poss. Edward Hill, mandolin on 23.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Urban Blues, Female Blues, St Louis Blues, Missouri Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Blues Guitar, Blues Violin, Blues Mandolin, Mandolin, Blues Piano,
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. Luella Miller remains an unknown and largely unheard artist to all but a handful of devoted record collectors and blues enthusiasts. Her music was recorded blues in the mid to late 1920s. Although it has not been firmly established, it appears that Luella Miller was from the St. Louis area. Her first records were recorded in St. Louis, although subsequent sessions took place in New York and Chicago. She had a strong, nasal voice, and sometimes employed a moaning style. Her topics tend to focus on her poor treatment at the hands of men, death, and disasters. In the case of Muddy Stream Blues and Tornado Groan she sings of a Mississippi flood, and the St. Louis cyclone, respectively. These are not classic blues recordings, but are an interesting example of what one might have heard in St. Louis in the mid-1920s. Miller’s accompaniment on the first two sessions includes the great New Orleans-born guitarist Lonnie Johnson. On these sides he plays both guitar and violin. The guitar sides illustrate Johnson’s smooth and original style, while those featuring his violin give the performances a much more primitive sound. While most of Johnson’s recordings feature his guitar, he also recorded on violin with Charlie Creath‘s band and on some of his solo recordings. The first Chicago session features a cornet player on five of the eight sides. It has been suggested that the cornetist is St. Louis jazzman Dewey Jackson, perhaps on the strength of one of the tunes being Jackson’s Blues. Aural evidence does not support this; the man on these sides is less imaginative and possesses a thinner, stiffer tone than that demonstrated by Jackson accompanying Missouri Anderson and with his own Peacock Orchestra. I believe that the cornet man on these sides is Andrew “Big Babe” Webb, another St. Louis musician who recorded in St. Louis with Bennie Washington’s Six Aces, Bert Hatton, and Florence Lowery. His style on these records is consistent with what is heard on the Luella Miller sides. The musicians accompanying Miller on the remaining Chicago sessions are largely unknown. One wonders if the “Mr. Jimmy” referred to in Wee Wee Daddy Blues is Jimmy Blythe, the prominent Chicago pianist. As with so many obscure musicians, we are left with more questions than answers in examining Luella Miller‘s work. Nonetheless, we are fortunate that Vocalion’s field recording unit was there to give us a musical snapshot of this St. Louis singer, circa 1927.John Wilby April, 1993 Copyright 1993: Document Records.