We’re Sisters Under The Skin – Female Blues & Boogie Woogie (1944 to 1949)
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Accordionist, pianist, singer and band leader, Christine Chatman was popular around New York and was given a recording session in 1944. Christine played a mean boogie piano and Decca probably had high hopes of good sales at the height of the boogie woogie craze. Her vocals were rousing rather than mellifluous with echoes of Big Joe Turner!
Although she didn’t make records in the 1920s like her contemporaries, Viola Wells – known professionally as Miss Rhapsody – was an active member of the generation of lady ‘vaudeville’ blues singers that included Ethel Waters, Clara Smith, Lucille Hegamin et al. In fact she operated on that undefinable borderline between blues and jazz, having started out singing in a church choir. Her versatility is demonstrated in these Savoy recordings where she ranges from all out boogie in Bye Bye Baby through 1920’s classics like Downhearted Blues and He May Be Your Man to the socially conscious We’re Sisters Under The Skin. What a voice the lady had….
Irene Williams was the daughter of famed musician, composer and music business entrepreneur Clarence Williams and his tremendously popular vaudeville blues singer wife Eva Taylor who had recorded regularly throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. When still only a teenager Irene recorded two of her father’s best known compositions for WNYC radio in New York and probably hoped to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a major record star, but it wasn’t to be: tastes had changed and cool rhythm and blues as practised by the likes of Charles Brown, Amos Milburn was the new thing. Ann Lewis was also recorded for the WNYC Jazz Festival with significant jazz musicians such as pianist Art Hodes.
Ruby Walker was the niece of Jack Gee, who for several years was (stormily) married to the great Bessie Smith. In 1924, aged 20, Ruby became Bessie’s regular travelling companion. Ruby started to record, initially for the Bluebird label, later for Vocalion and Decca. (Victor gave her another recording opportunity in 1947. See DOCD-1019.) She took the surname Smith, perhaps partly in tribute and certainly to benefit from the relationship, but wisely avoided trying to copy Bessie’s style. Instead, she steered a careful course between ‘torch’ blues and rhythm and blues. Nonetheless, WNYC probably felt the opportunity was too good to miss and Ruby recorded two of Bessie’s most successful numbers, in contrast she also recorded a strong version of the Cecil Gant hit Hit That Jive, Jack.