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Victoria Spivey

Victoria Spivey was one of the more influential blues women simply because she was around long enough to influence legions of younger women and men who rediscovered blues music during the mid-'60s U.S. blues revival, which had been brought about by British blues bands as well as their American counterparts, like Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop. Spivey could do it all: she wrote songs, sang them well, and accompanied herself on piano and organ, and occasionally ukulele.

Spivey began her recording career at age 19 and came from the same rough-and-tumble clubs in Houston and Dallas that produced Sippie Wallace. In 1918, she left home to work as a pianist at the Lincoln Theater in Dallas. In the early '20s, she played in gambling parlors, gay hangouts, and brothels in Galveston and Houston with Blind Lemon Jefferson. Among Spivey's many influences was Ida Cox, herself a sassy blues woman, and taking her cue from Cox, Spivey wrote and recorded tunes like "TB Blues," "Dope Head Blues," and "Organ Grinder Blues." Spivey's other influences included Bobby "Blue" Bland, Sara Martin, and Bessie Smith. Like so many other women blues singers who had their heyday in the '20s and '30s, Spivey wasn't afraid to sing sexually suggestive lyrics, and this turned out to be a blessing nearly 40 years later given the sexual revolution of the '60s and early '70s.

She recorded her first song, "Black Snake Blues," for the OKeh label in 1926, and then worked as a songwriter at a music publishing company in St. Louis in the late '20s. In the '30s, Spivey recorded for the Victor, Vocalion, Decca, and OKeh labels, and moved to New York City, working as a featured performer in a number of African-American musical revues, including the Hellzapoppin' Revue. In the '30s, she recorded and spent time on the road with Louis Armstrong's various bands. By the '50s, Spivey had left show business and sang only in church. But in forming her own Spivey Records label in 1962, she found new life in her old career. Her first release on her own label featured Bob Dylan as an accompanist.

As the folk revival began to take hold in the early '60s, Spivey found herself an in-demand performer on the folk-blues festival circuit. She also performed frequently in nightclubs around New York City. Unlike others from her generation, Spivey continued her recording career until well into the '70s, performing at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1973 with Roosevelt Sykes. Throughout the '60s and '70s, she had an influence on musicians as varied as Dylan, Sparky Rucker, Ralph Rush, Carrie Smith, Edith Johnson, and Bonnie Raitt.

Spivey's many albums for Spivey and other labels include the excellent Songs We Taught Your Mother (1962), which also includes contributions from Alberta Hunter and Lucille Hegamin, Idle Hours (1961), The Queen and Her Knights (1965), and The Victoria Spivey Recorded Legacy of the Blues (1970). In 1970, Spivey was awarded a BMI Commendation of Excellence from the music publishing organization for her long and outstanding contributions to many worlds of music. After entering Beekman Downtown Hospital with an internal hemorrhage, she died a short while later in 1976. Victoria Spivey is buried in Hempstead, New York. ~ Richard Skelly
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Victoria Spivey Collection 1926-27

Disc 1

1. Black Snake Blues

2. No More Jelly Bean Blues

3. Hoodoo Man Blues

6. The Alligator Pond Went Dry

7. T.B. Blues

8. No. 12 Let Me Roam

9. Garter Snake Blues

10. Christmas Morning Blues

11. Dope Head Blues

12. Blood Thirsty Blues

13. Your Worries Ain't Like Mine

14. A Good Man Is Hard To Find

15. Murder In The First Degree

16. My Handy Man (Feat. Clarence Williams' Blue Five)

19. Mosquito Fly And Flea

23. How Do They Do It That Way

24. Bloodhound Blues

Disc 2

1. Telephoning The Blues

2. Moaning The Blues

3. New York Blues

4. Showered With The Blues

7. Nebraska Blues

8. Low Down Man Blues

9. Don't Trust Nobody Blues

11. I'll Never Fall In Love Again

12. Black Snake Swing

13. Sweet Pease

17. Hollywood Stomp

18. Detroit Moan

19. One Hour Mama

20. Got The Blues So Bad

21. Give It To Him

22. Good Cabbage

23. From 1 To 12 (Dirty Dozen)

24. Down Hill Pull

x

Track List: The Blues Is Life

1. By Yourself - A Lonely Woman Blues

2. Eagle And Hawk - Jealousy Blues

3. You're My Man - Slick Chick Blues

4. Don't Worry About It - Two-Timer Blues

5. Low Friends - No Friends Blues

6. Kazoo Papa Blues - Kazoo Blues

7. Don't Care - Angry Blues

8. My Head Is Bad - An Alcohol Blues

9. Six Foot Daddy - Incendiary Blues

10. Can I Wash Your Clothes - Humble Blues

11. Good Sissages - A Sausage Blues

12. Big Black Belt - Simple Minded Woman Blues

x

Track List: Victoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936

1. Blood Hound Blues

2. Dirty T.B. Blues

3. Moaning The Blues

4. Telephoning The Blues

5. New York Blues

6. Lonesome With The Blues

7. Showered With The Blues

8. Haunted By The Blues

15. Nebraska Blues

16. He Wants Too Much

17. Low Down Man Blues

18. Don't Trust Nobody Blues

19. Dreaming 'Bout My Man

20. Sweet Please

21. Black Snake Swing

22. I'll Never Fall In Love Again

23. T B's Got Me

x

Track List: Victoria Spivey Vol. 4 1936-1937

1. Dreaming Of You (Take 1)

2. Dreaming Of You (Take 2)

3. I Can't Last Long

4. Mr. Freddie Blues (Take 1)

5. Mr. Freddie Blues (Take 2)

6. Trouble In Mind

7. Hollywood Stomp

8. Detroit Moan

9. Any-Kind-A-Man (Take 1)

10. Any-Kind-A-Man (Take 2)

11. I Ain't Gonna Let You See My Santa Claus

12. One Hour Mama

13. Harlem Susie-Kue

14. Give It To Him (Take 1)

15. Give It To Him (Take 2)

16. Got The Blues So Bad

17. Down Hill Pull

18. From 1 To 12 (Dirty Dozen)

19. Good Cabbage

20. Time Ain't Long (Take 1)

21. Time Ain't Long (Take 2)

22. Don't Love No Married Man

x

Track List: Victoria Spivey: Vol. 2 (1927-1929)

1. Nightmare Blues

2. Murder In The First Degree

3. Jelly Look What You Done Done

4. Your Worries Ain't Like Mine

5. A Good Man Is Hard To Find

6. My Handy Man

7. Organ Grinder Blues (Take A)

8. Organ Grinder Blues (Take C)

9. New Black Snake Blues - Part 1

10. New Black Snake Blues - Part 2

11. No, Papa, No!

12. Toothache Blues - Part 1

13. Furniture Man Blues - Part 1

14. Furniture Man Blues - Part 2

15. Mosquito, Fly And Flea

16. Toothache Blues - Part 2

17. You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now! - Part 1

18. You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now! - Part 2

19. Funny Feathers

20. How Do You Do It That Way?

21. Funny Feathers Blues (Take 1)

22. Funny Feathers Blues (Take 2)

23. How Do They Do It That Way? (Take 1)

24. How Do They Do It That Way? (Take 2)

x

Track List: Victoria Spivey Vol. 1 1926-1927

1. Black Snake Blues (1926)

2. Dirty Woman's Blues

3. Long Gone Blues

4. No More Jelly Bean Blues

5. Hoodoo Man Blues

6. Spider Web Blues

7. It's Evil Hearted Me

8. Santa Fe Blues

9. Humored And Petted Blues

10. Big Houston Blues

11. Got The Blues So Bad

12. Blue Valley Blues

13. Steady Grind

14. Idle Hour Blues

15. Arkansas Road Blues

16. The Alligator Pond Went Dry

17. No. 12 Let Me Roam

18. T.B. Blues

19. Garter Snake Blues

20. Christmas Morning Blues

21. Dope Head Blues

22. Red Lantern Blues

23. Blood Thirsty Blues

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Wow. I've listened to blues for 30 yrs, and "six foot daddy" knocked my socks off.
Report as inappropriate
rooster.elli s
Just Wonderful! I love her sultry and sassy voice and the way she approaches her lyrics.
Report as inappropriate
Excellent roots blues. Thank you Victoria Spivey!

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