Seven Decades Living the Blues

Hometown Houston

This Lone Star State contemporary to Victoria Spivey was born Beulah Thomas on the first day of Novemember, 1898 in Houston, Texas to the wife of a Baptist Deacon. She also obtained her musical baptism singing on the church piano, while her blues instruction came from big brother, George Thomas.

Marchin' Down to New Orleans

Eventually she was a child performer with younger brother, Hersal Thomas getting a name for herself touring the Texas Blues Tent shows. By 1915 the teenager moved to bigger opportunities in New Orleans with Hersal and lived with him until she met her new namesake, Matt Wallace, whom she married in 1917. New Orleans was the place to be if one wanted to meet jazz greats, and she did, as George was acquainted with Joe King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. She developed a reptuation as a strong voiced, with stronger lyrics, blueswoman, especially during the TOBA Vaudeville circuits, and "The Texas Nightingale" was offered the chance to go to Chicago with a deal with OKeh records.

Toddlin' Town Time

In 1923 with brothers Hersal and George she moved to the Windy City and made herself at home in that city's thriving jazz music scene amongst the . "Sippie" Wallace's first recordings included the co-written piece by George, Shorty George, and Up Country Blues. Indeed, her style stayed relatively bucolic, rather than affecting the sophisticated city style of other female singers. But she became a diva following with recordings with Louis Armstrong on her penned, Special Delivery Blues, and she sang George and Hersal's Bedroom Blues. An example of Sippie's blue blues was the twice recorded, I'm a Mighty Tight Woman, (probably not talking about her fiscal responsiblity.) She also wrote recorded and performed Jack of Diamond Blues, and by 1927 she had recorded forty sessions for Okeh, and almost twenty were written by her or her brothers, a novel thing for blues singers. She had been joined by not only coronetist Satchemo and King Oliver, but also Tom Morris; and the list included soprano saxist Sidney Bechet, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, and Clarence Williams on piano. Other musicians backing Sippie Wallace during her work were clarinetists Buster Bailey, and Artie Starks; trombonists Aaron Thompson, Honore Dutrey, and Hense Grundy. Rudolph Jackson helped on Alto sax, while she was accompanied on ivory by not only Hersal, but Perry Bradford and Eddie Heywood. Her guitarists were Bud Scott and Cal Smith while banjo was provided by Buddy Christian.

Detroit: Different Wheels Turning.

When she moved to Detroit in 1929, like so many others, the Great Depression had curtailed the big and good times of just a few years before, and the career dissipated likewise. Tragedy struck earlier when her sixteen year old baby brother, Hersal died of food poisoning in 1926, and now came to visit unannounced and unwanted in 1936 with the triple deaths of aunt Lillie, older brother George, killed by a streetcar, and husband Matt. She met a new man in her deepest sorrow, one she had probably met in Texas while in the Church, the gentle Nazarene, Jesus. She now spent forty years singing gospel while organist for the Leland Baptist Church.

Get On Board the Blues Revival

She rarely would make appearances, and especially not for secular tunes, until old friend, Victoria Spivey, cajoled Sippie out of her blues recession in 1966. They joined forces in the studio for an album on Spivey's own company comprised of favorites called: Sippie Wallace and Victoria Spivey which was not released until 1970. In 1966, also, she recorded Sippie Wallace Sings the Blues on the Storyville label and her memorable song, "Women Be Wise, Don't Advertise Your Man," was accompanied by pianist Roosevelt Sykes and Little Brother Montgomery. This album, according to Bonnie Raitt, was instrumental in pushing the well known folk artist into taking up blues music in the late sixties. Fortunately the stroke that inflicted Sippie in 1970 was not severe enough to stop her new now burgeoning blues boom, and her new musical benefactor, Bonnie Raitt, assisted Wallace in signing with Atlantic in 1982 where Raitt added her sizzling slide virtuosity to help Sippie get a traditional Blues Grammy in 1983, and the coveted W.C. Handy Award for best album of the year 1984.

Home Again

Exactly on the day of Sippie's eighty-eighth birthday, in 1986, she went onward to play eternally for the Lord's Great Ensemble.


OKeh Records


    May 26:

Caldonia Blues NY
Leavin' Me Daddy Is Hard To Do NY
Mama's Gone, Goodbye NY
Underworld Blues NY

    May 29:

Can Anybody Take Sweet Mama's Place NY
Stranger's Blues NY
    June 6:
Wicked Monday Morning Blues NY
Sud Bustin' Blues NY
    October 26
Up The Country Blues Chicago
Shorty George Blues Chicago

    November 28:
Trouble Everywhere I Roam NY
Baby I Can't Use You No More NY
    December 1
Walkin' Talkin' Blues NY
I've Stopped My Man NY
    December 2:
Off And On Blues NY
    December 3:
Let My Man Alone Blues NY
He's The Cause Of Me Being Blue NY


    February 24:
Devil Dance Blues NY
Every Dog Has His Day NY
    August 19:
Parlor Social De Luxe NY
Section Hand Blues NY
    August 20:
Advice Blues NY
1925 - Being Down Don't Worry Me NY
    August 22:
The Man I Love NY
Murder's Gonna Be My Crime NY
    August 25:
Suitcase Blues NY
I'm Leaving You NY
I Must Have It NY
I'm Sorry For It Now NY


    March 1
A Jealous Woman Like Me Chicago
Bedroom Blues NY
Jack Of Diamonds Blues Chicago
Special Delivery Blues Chicago
    March 3
A Man For Every Day of the Week Chicago
The Mail Train Blues Chicago
I Feel Good Chicago
    November 20:
Bedroom Blues Chicago
I'm A Mighty Tight Woman Chicago


    May 6:
Dead Drunk Blues Chicago,
[Have You Ever Been Down? Chicago
Lazy Man Blues Chicago
The Flood Blues Chicago


    February 6:
You Gonna Need My Help Chicago

    February 7:
I'm A Mighty Tight Woman Chicago

source: AMG

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