Celebrating Women’s History Month with Delmark’s historical catalogue of female singers
“Delmark Records, a woman owned business, is the oldest continuously operating jazz and blues independent record label in the United States: 67 years! Throughout its history Delmark has released records by many of the most historical blues & jazz artists. We are committed to this legacy. While we continue creating new releases, we also maintain and revitalize Delmark’s amazing catalogue”, says musician & sound engineer Julia A. Miller, President & CEO of Delmark Records since 2018.
Various Artists – Wild About That Thing/Ladies Sing the Blues (Delmark 50th Anniversary)
Women blues singers have been recording since the 1920s. Wild About That Thing features the best of both classic and modern blues. The past half-century of jazz and blues, from the Chicago perspective of Delmark Records, is more fun, stranger, grittier and more intimate than the music typically purveyed by major companies. The Delmark guarantee is genuine jazz and blues, played without compromise. Along with the title track by Katharine Davis, the release also includes songs by Big Time Sarah, Karen Carroll, Blu Lu Barker, Bonnie Lee, Edith Wilson, Grana Louise, Dinah Washington, Shirley Johnson, Zora Young and Mary Johnson. All in all, a great introduction to Delmark’s women.
Edith Wilson – He May Be Your Man
At fifteen, Edith Wilson became the third black woman to make phonograph records and has since spent many long and productive years in the entertainment field. While she is generally classified with he vaudeville blues singers (based on her early recordings), this is not a fair summation of her career, which has included success on the stage, screen, radio and television, in addition to the recordings for which she is best remembered by jazz collectors. A versatile vocalist, Edith sang with the Thousand Pounds of Harmony, comprised of Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller and herself, as well as a number of Broadway revues.
Blu Lu, Wee Bea, Baby Dee – Don’t You Feel My Leg
Subtitled “Apollo’s Lady Blues Singers,” this Don’t You Feel My Leg has nine numbers (three previously unissued) by Blue Lu Barker, five from Wea Bea Booze, and four by Baby Dee.
Various Artists – Women of Blue Chicago
Bonnie Lee – Karen Carroll – Shirley Johnson – Lynne Jordan – Big Time Sarah – Katherine Davis
Blue Chicago is the name of one of the finest blues clubs in Chicago. Blue Chicago has been presenting Chicago’s world-class blues artistry for many years. One of the unique aspects of the club is that women singers are part of the performances almost every night. This CD, Women of Blue Chicago, features Chicago’s best women of the blues, including Bonnie Lee, Karen Carroll, Shirley Johnson, Lynne Jordan, Big Time Sarah and Katherine Davis. All of these ladies have been associated with Blue Chicago over the years, as well as Delmark.
Bonnie Lee – Sweetheart of the Blues
Many great blues artists have come from the Texas area but, arguably, none so adorable as Ms. Bonnie Lee. With a career that has spanned more than fifty years, Lee stirs the mixture of jazz sophistication, deep rooted blues feeling and southern charm to come with a style that’s all her own. Sweetheart of the Blues can be looked at as a celebration of friendship. Bonnie Lee has spread her warm sensitivity around Chicago making lasting connections that can be heard here. These bonds are one of the highlights of the album. It is an aggregation of companions congealed by the music.
Demetria Taylor – Bad Girl
With Billy Branch, Eddie Shaw, Big Time Sarah, Eddie Taylor Jr., Shun Kikuta, Roosevelt Purifoy, Greg McDaniel and Pookie Styx.
Bad Girl is the debut CD by blues singer Demetria Taylor, daughter of the legendary Eddie Taylor. Best remembered for his work as the rhythm guitarist for Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor also recorded as leader for VJ and had a minor hit with the song “Bad Boy” in 1955. Demetria revisits the song here as a tribute to her late father. But Demetria is not just riding pops’ coattails. At only 38 years young, Demetria won the B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted Blues Diva Contest in 2010, has already performed three times at the Chicago Blues Festival, and guested on two Eddie Taylor CDs. Bad Girl is eleven songs, including “I’m A Woman/Hoochie Coochie Woman”, “All Your Love”, “Goin’ Back To Mississippi”, “When You Leave”, “Big Boss Man”, and a rousing duet with Big Time Sarah on “Wang Dang Doodle”.
Zora Young – Learned My Lesson
Of her first Delmark CD Learned My Lesson (Delmark 748) Living Blues magazine said “Her rough-edged croon can raise welts or love bumps. She has the versatility to strut comfortably from back-alley funk to uptown jump sophistication.” Tore Up From The Floor Up features five original compositions, some choice covers and an interview. Guitarist Pete Allen provides most of the musical direction while The Chicago Horns provide support on “Til The Fat Lady Sings” and “Ace Of Spades.”
Big Time Sarah – A Million of You
Big Time Sarah built a solid reputation worldwide with regular tours in the U.S. and abroad. Sarah started sitting-in during the late ’60s with Louis and Dave Myers, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and Magic Slim. A Million Of You features five new songs Sarah collaborated on with songwriter William Bolden and arranger/guitarist Rico McFarland. Although more than capable of wringing the last drop of soul out of a slow burner, most of Sarah’s music is about having a big time and Sarah delivers with gusto! Still available: Lay It On ‘Em Girls (Delmark 659) and Blues in the Year One-D-One
Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire
Sharon Lewis unleashes another extraordinary Delmark album; Grown Ass Woman features 12 new original songs with special guest appearances by Sugar Blue and Joanna Connor. In a review of her first Delmark album Rosalind Cummings-Yeates wrote, “The Real Deal (Delmark 816) qualifies as one of the best blues albums of the year” — Illinois Entertainer, December 2011. The new album kicks off with “Can’t Do It Like We Do” a tribute to the current Chicago Blues sound and scene. “Hell Yeah!” is a total party jam, there?s plenty of soul like “They’re Lying” and “Call Home”, and “Freedom” is a timely song which points out that “freedom cannot be freedom until freedom means freedom for everyone!”
Sharon Lewis – The Real Deal
Sharon Lewis made her Delmark debut in 2007 as a special guest vocalist with Dave Specter on Live in Chicago (Delmark 794, DVD 1794). “…it’s Sharon Lewis who provides the disc’s most exciting moments. Her powerful pipes inject a strong gospel vibe into her originals ‘In Too Deep’ and the head-turning ballad ‘Angel’.” –Blues Revue
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Sharon’s earliest musical experience was as a member of a gospel choir. She moved to Chicago permanently in 1975 and became active on the Chicago blues scene in the early ’90s, and in 2005 Sharon formed her own band – Texas Fire. The Real Deal features new Sharon Lewis original songs and a few covers of songs she often performs in her live shows like Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The overall tone of this disc is as celebratory as Sharon Lewis’ shows. She’s not about to let negativity compromise her attitude, her thoughts, or her soul. It’s no more evident than when she discusses the controversies that have arisen over who (if anyone) should inherit the crown worn by the late Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor. “I’m not ‘Queen’ of anything,” she avows. “I’m The Real Deal.”
Shirley Johnson – Blues Attack
“Raised in the church but evidently born to sing the blues, Shirley Johnson belts like a spiritual daughter of Koko Taylor, flexing her husky voice on ballads and up-tempo love songs, hitting gravel when she reaches for a higher note or pushes her volume.” –Ted Drozdowski, PULSE!, from a review of Shirley’s first Delmark CD Killer Diller (Delmark 757). Shirley is back with that same blend of traditional good-rockin’ Chicago blues, smoldering R&B and poppin’ soul. Almost all of the 14 songs on Blues Attack are new original compositions by various musicians on the CD along with two great covers of classics “Unchain My Heart” and “634-5789”.
Grana’ Louise – Getting Kinda Rough!
Internationally recognized vocalist Graná Louise has delighted countless music fans around the world with her outstanding blues performances. Her deep, rich voice belts out the kind of raw, gut blues that makes your spine tingle and your heart ache at her performances at Chicago’s hottest blues clubs including Blue Chicago, Buddy Guy’s Legends, B.L.U.E.S and The Kingston Mines and has been repeatedly featured at the Chicago Blues Festival, singing both blues and gospel. Graná has rocked the house at the acclaimed Apollo Theater in New York and festivals from Detroit to Mexico, to Reykjavik, to the French Riviera, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Latvia, Germany, Brazil and beyond! Gettin’ Kinda Rough! combines studio and live recordings, brand new original songs, and covers that she’s personalized and made them her own.
Big Time Sarah – Blues in the Year One D One
For decades Sarah was a mainstay of Chicago’s north side blues clubs. In 1989 Sarah formed the BTS (for ‘Big Time Sarah’) Express, a powerhouse young band that fused elements of soul, funk and jazz with blues. “The mens get a better break than the womens. They get a better chance at getting a record out and they get more jobs…It’s time to show a man our showmanship, our courage and what we can do,” Sarah reminds us. “We out there to get know, too.” Go ahead and lay it on ’em Sarah — big time!
Big Time Sarah – Lay It On Em Girls
Shirley Johnson – Killer Diller
With Robert Ward, John Primer, Johnny B. Moore, Maurice John Vaughn.
Shirley Johnson is an outstanding vocalist. For many years she has been an able ambassador, here and abroad, representing both the blues and gospel traditions. Shirley has a passionate, strong voice that can deliver a chugging Chicago blues shuffle with uncommon conviction, and infuse a slow ballad with the reassuring power of her own personal experience. Shirley Johnson is an entirely modern blues singer with ample talent, heart and class. Killer Diller is Shirley’s American debut CD.
Zora Young – The French Connection
The love affair between Europe and the blues began in the early 50s with the arrival of Big Bill Broonzy who performed in Limoges, France, where most of the musicians on this album come from and where it was recorded. Zora first performed in Europe in 1981 and has followed with more than 20 tours in France making her the Chicago blueswoman record-holder! Inspired by Zora’s and Bobby Dirninger’s recording of “Two Trains Running” on her previous Delmark album, Tore Up From the Floor Up (Delmark 784), producer Chris Dussuchaud suggested a half-electric / half-acoustic album. The French Connection is Zora’s awesome renditions of not only Chicago blues, but also gospel, jazz, deep Mississippi blues, and country music in her own, very special way. Also available: Learned My Lesson (Delmark 748).
Karen Carroll – Had My Fun
The first four songs on Had My Fun will transport you to front row center so that you can experience an actual Karen Carroll club performance. Karen is such a natural entertainer that it’s easy to get caught up in her show and never consciously realize that she is also one of the top blues singers. Although her style could be classified as “blues shouter”, aficionados will appreciate the many intricacies of Karen’s blues. For the rest of the album the attempt was to capture the live feel of the studio. Karen used the same hand-held microphone that she used at Blue Chicago that magic night of July 28th. Most of the recordings were done in one take without any overdubs on the entire album. So settle in and have yourself some FUN!
Karen Carroll – Talk to the Hand
The best musicians transcend styles and techniques. They deliver their hearts and souls, connecting on a primal level, one on one with each and every listener. Karen Carroll is just such an artist and one of the most universal artists to come on the scene since Nina Simone. Within one line–indeed almost one word in a song–she can lay down the grit of Howlin’ Wolf stroked by the sass of Sarah Vaughan. Talk to the Hand features six Karen Carroll originals and a blues style, heavily influenced by gospel, all her own. Of her first album, Had My Fun, critics had this to say: “Karen Carroll appears poised to make her bid for blues queen of Chicago–her thundering performance should leave the competition quaking.” – Stephen Sharp, Living Blues. “Karen has an instrumental quality to her vocals–a quality usually reserved to describe the world-class artistry of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan.” Larry Hoffman, King Biscuit Times.
John & Sylvia Embry – Troubles
Queen Sylvia Embry is best known as the bass-playing vocalist in Lefty Dizz and the Shock Treatment during the late 70s. The group was immensely popular and played some of the best (and wildest) blues music in Chicago. They were the house band for Blue Mondays at the Checkerboard and played regularly at the Kingston Mines. It seemed as if Sylvia was poised to break out as Chicago’s leading blues woman as she started to front her own band and recording for three different labels in just a few years. “John Embry was one of the city’s fine but unheralded blues guitarists” said Sylvia. They were married for a time but by time they recorded this album they had divorced. Recorded on January 19, 1979 by the tiny Razor label, the original album is long out-of-print. This new CD re-issue contains previously unissued material. This is classic Chicago blues at its best.
Steve Freund & Gloria Hardiman – Set Me Free
Born and raised in Brooklyn, blues guitarist Steve Freund was reborn a Chicagoan when he relocated in 1976. The list of people he’s played with reads like a Who’s Who of Chicago blues legends – including Sunnyland Slim, Luther Allison, Lonnie Brooks, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor, Johnny Littlejohn and Big Walter Horton. Originally issued on the Razor label, this 1983 album was Steve’s debut as leader. Set Me Free teams him up with vocalist Gloria Hardiman, whose voice was one of the richest, toughest blues voices on the Chicago scene at the time…a voice that’ll steal your soul and take it right up to heaven. Contains four bonus tracks including the previously unissued tracks “Homework” and “Kiddio” along with two by Ken Saydak, keyboardist for the whole album, from a rare ’83 Razor single.
Sister Elizabeth Eustis – Walk With Me
This album resurrects the definitive 1962 recording session by an historic pillar of New Orleans’ gospel singing community, Sister Elizabeth Eustis. Only four of the thirteen songs from this session were originally released; the other nine – which include some of the session’s most brilliant moments – are issued here for the very first time. They recall a classic New Orleans gospel vocalist, a venerable Baptist church-house singer.
Jennifer Noble says
I hope that you search out and find more women artists to record. The recordings in this list were done years ago. The newest ones listed here would be Demetria Taylor and Sharon Lewis and those recordings are at least 5 years old. Let’s record women who are playing gigs and performing now. I really liked it when Delmark Records did a series of LIVE recordings. They did a DVD and a CD of the same recording. Although I do not remember them recording any women when they did that series. Perhaps you can change that.
Jon Hill says
Hi Jennifer, thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support of women in Chicago Blues — the blues continue to stay alive thanks to people like you. We have many projects in the works, so be on the look out for more coming soon! In the meantime, I’d suggest taking a listen to another Delmark record by a fantastic woman vocalist — Dee Alexander’s recent release celebrating the music of Billie Holiday, DE 5032 “It’s Too Hot For Words” ( https://delmark.com/product/5032 ), if you haven’t already!
Mary Oishi says
Wild About That Thing is a terrific collection. I played 2 cuts from it on my show last week for Women’s History Month. How do I get on your list for CDs or digital downloads? I do a weekly blues show (Wang Dang Doodle) on KSFR Santa Fe.
Jon Hill says
Hi Mary, thanks for the support! Please send an email to Kevin Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll get you on our promo list.