Memphis Minnie was born in Algiers,Louisiana  June 3, 1897 to Abe and Gertrude Douglas.  She was the oldest of 13 children.  Minnie's given name was "Lizzie Douglas."  She didn't care for it much and eventually became known professionally and personally as Memphis Minnie.

The blues of the infamous Beale Street drew Minnie "up north" to Memphis. Beale Street and most blues clubs could be rough places.  Johnny Shines recalls, " Any men fool with her she'd go right after them right away.  She didn't take no foolishness off them.  Guitar, pocket-knife, pistol, anything she get her hand on she'd use it; y'know Memphis Minnie used to be a hell-cat...." (Garon, pg. 15)

The Garons state, "Minnie was among the first twenty performers to be elected to the Hall of Fame in the inaugural W.C. Handy awards in 1980 and she won the top female vocalist award in the first Blues Unlimited Reader's Poll in 1973, finishing ahead of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey...Many blues artists date an entire era in their lives by referring to her.  As Koko Taylor said. 'the first blues record I ever heard was ME AND MY CHAUFFEUR BLUES, by Memphis Minnie'  " (Garon, pgs. 3-4) Minnie is perhaps the most famous female country blues artist of our time. Her songs were about the "hard times", the "happy times" and the "love times."  She wrote and recorded hundreds of songs.  Among them, "Bumble Bee Blues,"  "You Got to Move,"  "Hole in the wall" and many more.   Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Johnny Shines, Big Mama Thornton among the many diverse artists who  have counted her as being one of their main influences.

The Garons so effectively say, " Memphis Minnie, a black working-class woman, called no man master, defied gender stereotypes and exemplified a radically adventurous life-style that makes most careers of the '20s and '30s seem dull by comparison."

Minnie died in 1973.

To learn more about Memphis Minnie and for a complete discography, please read WOMEN WITH GUITAR: MEMPHIS MINNIE BLUES by Paul and Beth Garon, published by Da Capo Press * New York.

Lea Gilmore
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©1998 Lea A. Gilmore and P.W. Fenton, All Rights Reserved.