Alberta’s Joyous Blues

In the early 1980s I had the pleasure of seeing Alberta Hunter perform her captivating mix of bawdy blues, ballads and gospel tunes. Hunter was bewitching, her love of the music was infectious. She was in her mid-80s. The last time I saw her perform she had to be helped onstage in a wheelchair, but when she sang the years melted away. The music was in her blood.

In her first career the teenage Hunter started singing in brothels and bawdy houses, like many blues and jazz artists of the day. She became the toast of Chicago while still a teen, performing with King Oliver & his Creole Jazz Band featuring Louis Armstrong. She lived in New York during the Roaring ‘20s and performed in France during the historic Jazz Age. She recorded for many jazz labels, had a radio show in the 1930s and performed on Broadway. She was also a songwriter. Her “Downhearted Blues” was a giant hit for acclaimed blues singer Bessie Smith.

In the 1950s Hunter retired from music, trained to become a nurse and, at age 62, went to work at a New York hospital. She lived in relative obscurity until the late 1970s after she’d been forced to retire at the age of 81 from nursing. Then Hunter launched a second career, performing at famed New York jazz venue The Cookery. Downhearted Blues: Live at the Cookery is a reissue of a recording made of one of Hunter’s marvelous performances. Check it out at rockbeatrecords.com and discover or rediscover one of the great women of the blues. Hunter died in 1984. I still treasure memories of her live performances and the joy she brought to her audience.

Hot Notes

The Iguanas have several shows in the area including Thursday, Sept. 29, at The 21st Saloon at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 1, at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar. (See 8 Days.) On Thursday, Sept. 29, Alligator Records’ Guitar Shorty plays the Zoo 6 p.m.-9 p.m., followed by the Blues Orchestra featuring Honeyboy Turner and the Lil’ Slim Blues Band after 9 p.m.

Matt Cox and Travelling Mercies gig at Harrah’s Stir bar on Friday, Sept. 30, at 9 p.m.

Robert Cray is scheduled for the Horseshoe Casino’s Whiskey Roadhouse on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

 

posted at 04:28 pm
on Monday, September 26th, 2011

COMMENTS

(We're testing Disqus commenting (finally!); please let us know if you have trouble.)

comments powered by Disqus

 

« Previous Page


May’s Got Roots

One of the stand-out shows for May is the return of The Cate Brothers, who perform Sunday, May 24, 6 p.m. at The 21st Saloon. Earl and Ernie Cate have deep roots in American music, from their own...

more »


PWF, BSO & More

Playing With Fire concert promoter Jeff Davis has announced three dates for 2015 in conjunction with sponsor-hosts Midtown Crossing. The Playing With Fire concerts are part of the summer long...

more »


Singleton Debut plus Smokin’ Joe & Bnois

Big shows this week include an extra Saturday night show at The 21st Saloon featuring Texas blues-rockers Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King. They bring their band to Omaha Saturday, April 4, 5 p.m. at...

more »


Familiar Friends

Veteran Dallas bluesmen Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King play a special CD release party at The 21st Saloon Saturday, April 4, 5:30 p.m.
Visiting Italian artist Gaetano Pellino, who has been seen...

more »


New Orleans Piano, Mississippi Roots, Lash LaRue & More

Thursday night the great options for live music include the joyous New Orleans inflected romps of Davina & The Vagabonds at The 21st Saloon Thursday, March 26, 6-9 p.m. They are on their way off to...

more »







Advanced Search