Crown Princess of the Blues
Goin' With a Travelin' Show
Ida Cox, one of the stars of the twenties blues triad of female blues vocalists, that included Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, was actually born Ida Prather in Toccoa, Georgia, February 25, 1896. This is the record, unless some of the various conflicting accounts are considered. As a teenager, Ida ran away for the limelight of the vaudeville tent shows that toured Dixie. Her early work which teamed her at one point with Jelly Roll Morton included comedy routines as well as singing.
By the time she was seventeen she signed herself up with Paramount Records, billed as "Uncrowned Queen of the Blues" providing seventy-eight songs for them. Appearing with her in studio were the trumpet player Tommy Ladnier and piano man Lovie Austin; she always had the best musicians with her. This vocal artist, who when recording with other labels such as Silvertone and Broadway, used the names: Jane Smith, Julia Powers, Kate Lewis and Velma Bradley. Her lyrics like Wild Women Don't Have the Blues, that called for sensual libidonous liberation, Last Mile Blues, which lamented the death penalty, and Pink Slip Blues, obviously about being layed off, showed her zealous devotion to topicality, especially women's issues demanding respect not just from their man, but from mankind in general. Other notable songs were Bone Orchard Blues, Black Crepe Blues, One Hour Mama, Deep Sea Blues, and Worn Down Daddy. She gave us our musical marching orders in, You Got to Swing and Sway, and she defiantly warned us, I Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Break My Heart. Her husband, Jesse Crump, accompanied her on organ for Coffin Blues. She was famous for her droning, meloncholy resonating delivery, in-vogue flashy costume (which made up for relatively plain natural appearance), and savvy business acumen. She not only wrote some of her own songs, but produced the stage shows and managed the company, Raisin' Cain -- her own touring outfit.
Busy on the Road
When Ida entered the next decade of the thirties, she kept busy performing live, so there studio work was just about nil. A big moment professionally was her appearance in 1939 at Carnegie Hall for a special presentation: Spirituals to Swing put on by John Hammond, (Sr.).
Jazz Age to Retirement
After her success at Carnegie, she began the next decade of swing to join guitarist pioneer and great, Charlie Christian, the incomparable pianist, Lionel Hampton as well as Fletcher Henderson and Hot Lips Page in studio. Edmond Hall, Red Allen and J.C. Higginbotham appeared for these sessions as well. She was on her way back with her company on the national circuit, when sad for all, she fell to a stroke in 1944. She was retired in Knoxville, Tennessee throughout the fifties. It was not until 1961 that she was cajoled from reclusivity to join Coleman Hawkins for their Blues for Rampart Street album on Riverside. This label in 1953 had produced an album of her early work: Ida Cox With Tommy Ladnier Sings the Blues, 1954 Bertha Chippie Hill produced, Ida Fox, and London Records in 1954 released Sings the Blues. Showing sometimes the hard times from life's attacks, this senior lady, still proved herself to be worthy of the title: The Blues Queen. Assorted collections albums featured her hits Wild Women Don't Have the Blues and Death Letter Blues; as well as other ones mentioned above, and these as well: Take Him off My Mind, Moanin' Groanin' Blues'fore Day Creepand I Can't Quit My Man. Cancer finally put this blues giant and lovely lady to final rest in November 1967 -- ten days short of her birthday.
Another compilation was done in 1971 and 1975 by Fountain, and Garnet Records also had that year a six LP set. She can be heard on Document Records Complete Recorded Works from 1997, or Classic Blues release in 2001 of The Essential Ida Cox.
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