Victoria Spivey

Victoria Spivey was a prominent blues woman because she lived long enough to have an impact on the younger generation of blues musicians who discovered blues music in the 1960s U.S. blues revival. This revival was influenced by both British blues bands and American blues artists like Paul Butterfield or Elvin Bishop. Spivey was able to do everything: she could write songs, sing them well, and accompany herself on piano, organ, and sometimes ukulele. Spivey, who was 19 when she began her recording career, came from the same Houston and Dallas clubs that produced Sippie Wallace. She left her home in 1918 to become a pianist at Dallas’ Lincoln Theater. She was a member of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Galveston and Houston gambling parlors and gay hangouts in the early 1920s. Spivey was influenced by Ida Cox who was a sassy Blues woman. Spivey recorded and wrote tunes such as “TB Blues,” Dope Head Blues, and “Organ Grinder Blues” using Cox’s lead. Bessie Smith, Sara Martin and Bobby “Blue” Bland were also influences on Spivey. Spivey was a woman blues singer who sang in the ’20s to ’30s. She didn’t hesitate to sing provocative lyrics. This turned out to be a blessing almost 40 years later, given the sexual revolution that took place in the ’60s and ’70s. In 1926, she recorded “Black Snake Blues” for the OKeh label. She then became a songwriter for a St. Louis music publishing company in the late 1920s. Spivey was a recording artist for Victor, Vocalion and Decca in the 1930s. She then moved to New York City and became a featured performer at a variety of African-American musical revues including the Hellzapoppin’ Revue. She spent the 1930s on the road recording and touring with Louis Armstrong’s bands. Spivey was out of show business by the 1950s and singing only in church. Spivey found new life when she founded her Spivey Records label, in 1962. Bob Dylan was an accompanist on her first album. Spivey became a popular performer at the folk-blues festivals as the folk revival took hold in the 1960s. Spivey also performed in New York City nightclubs. Spivey, unlike other artists of her generation, continued her recording career well into the 1970s. She performed at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival with Roosevelt Sykes in 1973. She had a profound influence on many musicians, including Dylan, Sparky Rucker and Ralph Rush, Edith Johnson and Edith Johnson in the ’60s/’70s. Spivey and other labels released many albums including Songs We Taught Your Mother (1962), with contributions from Alberta Hunter and Lucille Shegamin, Idle Hours (1961) and The Queen and Her Knights (1965) as well as The Victoria Spivey Recorded Legacy of the Blues (1970). Spivey received a BMI Commendation for Excellence in 1970 from the music publishing company for her outstanding contributions to music. She died shortly after she was admitted to Beekman Downtown Hospital from an internal hemorhage. Victoria Spivey is buried at Hempstead, New York. AllMusic

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