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Bessie Jackson
(April 1, 1897 - August 10, 1948) U.S.A.

Bessie Jackson

Blues singer


Bessie Jackson was born Lucille Anderson at Amory, Monroe County, Mississippi. She came "from the Black Belt", which was a band of fertile land running in a crescent down the north-east border of Mississippi and almost entirely across the center of Alabama.

Lucille had moved to Birmingham before 1916, and had married Nazareth (Maxwell) Lee Bogan, senior. She had a son, Nazareth Lee Bogan, Jr., and a stepdaughter, Ira Betty. Her husband Nazareth was a locomotive fireman living in Birmingham by 1922. He apparently traveled the route through Amory between Kansas City and Birmingham, Alabama, and Lucille Bogan went to New York to sing.

Lucille had an affair at Chicago with pianist Will Ezell, whom she met at Chicago. Ezell accompanied her for Paramount in 1927. As a result of her affair with Ezell, she was involved in divorce proceedings brought by her husband, but Lucille and Nazareth were still together as late as 1942. Nazareth Bogan Jr. recalled that he and his mother, Lucille, did move to Chicago in the late 1920s, and that she recorded there.

In 1923 Lucille made her first recording, a "race" record for Paramont titled Sweet Petunia. Although it was classed as Blues it was actually a Vaudeville tune. Although the song was a hit, Bogan fearlessly changed her name and her style - Bessie Jackson was born. Bessie Jackson was a big-voiced feminist woman who sang personal songs with X-rated lyrics.

Always fortunate to be accompanied by gifted pianists such as Cow Cow Davenport and Will Ezell, possibly her best work was between 1933 and 1935 when she teamed up with pianist Walter Roland. The duo recorded for the American Record Company. They would make more than 100 recordings together before their contract was dropped.

Lucille sang about prostitution, adultery, lesbianism and the social ills of alcoholism, drug addition and abusive relationships. Her lyrics were explicit, she tells it like it is. The best known of Lucille's songs was one she wrote titled Shave 'Em Dry .Two versions were cut, an unreleased version of the song contained far more explicit lyrics than the "cleaned-up": version. It is believed Shave 'Em Dry was the inspiration for the Rolling Stones song Start Me Up.

Tricks Ain't Walkin No More is a prostitute's lament with lyrics like, "I got a market where I sell my meat." It is depression time and the "johns" are scarce.

B.D. (Bull Dyke) Blues is a song about Lesbianism, "Comin' a time women ain't gonna need no man." Sloppy Drunk Blues extols the joys of alcohol, "I'd rather be a sloppy drunk, sittin' in the can, than to be home rollin' with my man." There is a theme to her compositions, sex is good, men are no good and getting high makes a woman forget.

Lucille and Maxwell remained married until at least 1942. But, they were frequently apart, and it is likely she lived a life of sexual freedom and indulged herself with plenty of booze and drugs. She died at home in Los Angeles of coronary sclerosis and is buried without a grave marker at Carson, California.


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