Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with Bessie Smith

We go way back in time this morning to find “The Empress of the Blues”; the most popular blues singer of the 1920s and 30s according to Wikipedia

Bessie SmithAnother site describes her as, “….. a rough, crude, violent woman. She was also the greatest of the classic Blues singer of the 1920s.”   All I know is the woman could sing!

Born in 1894 and gone in 1937 after a car crash, Bessie left behind a rich collection of songs for us but beware!  If you were to act out the lyrics you might have a hugely enjoyable and tiring morning but relaxing it wouldn’t be.

After You’ve Gone

The lyrics are here.

A great way to start – hope you enjoyed this.


I must admit that I rarely listen to Bessie.  I came across her – I’m not sure where.  It may have been through Stirling Folk Club …. again.  Not that Bessie ever performed there but a blues singer did, I bought his album and probably she was mentioned in the sleeve notes. 

The next track I first heard on Eric Clapton’s Unplugged CD.

Nobody Knows You when You’re Down and Out

What was true 80 years ago is true today!

Again, lyrics



Wild about That Thing

This is the time to listen and relax: do not listen and do!


I hoped you survived that and didn’t spill too much coffee.  There wasn’t much subtlety there.


St Louis Blues

Here is the only film of Bessie in this collection.  In fact this may be the only remaining film of Bessie.


I think it makes a big difference actually seeing as well as hearing her.

This is history!


Yellowdog Blues

Some of the songs in this show are new to me and this is one but well worth its inclusion.


Sometimes I wonder what on earth a song is about but then my baser instincts take over and I realise.



Empty Bed Blues

There are two parts to this song and each is as blatant as the other but the woman can ….. sing.


Any coffee left in the mug?


Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair

Not many ask for this but she did “'Cause I done cut my good man's throat”.


I guess you deserved it but thanks for the song.


Gimme a Pigfoot

Already we’ve come to the last song and this is the most recent in the show although 77 years old!

I don’t know what “pigfoot” refers to here although given the references to sex I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the correct interpretation were that in the Urban Dictionary.  Who knows?  Who cares?

Just enjoy Bessie Smith with Jack Teagarden on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Chu Berry on sax, Bobby Johnson on guitar.


I …. just  …. love …. this.


Another show over.  Each week I wonder if I’ll enjoy putting the show together and each week the answer is “YES!”.

We’ll come more up-to-date next Sunday although whom I’ll choose I don’t know.

Well, that’s it for another week.  Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.


  1. I remember George Melly once said that he was a reincarnation of Bessie Smith. Unlikely as he was born 11 years before she died but she was one of his greatest inspirations.
    And you are right. She knew how to deliver a song. I wonder if amy of the current 'stars' will be remembered in 70 or 80 years time.

  2. None will be remembered but I guess I'm the wrong age to appreciate the younger ones.

  3. I have only recently started to listen to Bessie Smith, and what a treat! And what a legacy!