Every woman in my place is bound to feel blue too

Posted by | February 25, 2016

Listen to Ida Cox sing “Any Woman’s Blues”

Any Woman’s Blues

My man ain’t acting right
He stays out late at night
But still he says he loves no one but me
But if I find the gal
That’s trying to steal my pal

I’ll get her told, just you wait and see
I feel so blue, don’t know what to do
Every woman in my place is bound to feel blue too
Lord, I love my man better than I love myself
I love my man better than I love myself

And if he don’t have me, he sure won’t have nobody else
My man’s got teeth like a lighthouse in the sea
My man’s got teeth like a lighthouse in the sea
And every time he smiles, he throws his light on me
His voice sounds like chimes, I mean the organ kind

His voice sounds like chimes, I mean the organ kind
And every time he speaks, it’s music to my troubled mind
I’m gonna buy myself a graveyard of my own
I’m gonna buy myself a graveyard of my own
Gonna kill somebody if they don’t let my man alone

Ida Prather Cox (1896-1967) was a vaudeville performer and a pioneering blues singer who, along with Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and Bessie Smith, founded the female blues genre. Cox was born Ida Prather on February 25, 1896, in Toccoa, GA. She grew up in Cedartown, near Rome, and sang in church choirs as a child. Cox ran away from home when she was 14 to join travelling vaudeville shows such as Clark’s Minstrels. She traveled the south in vaudeville and tent shows, performing both as a singer and a comedienne.

Ida Cox, blues singerSometime during this period she married a performing minstrel named Alder Cox(of the Florida Blossom Minstrel Show). When the popularity of vaudeville shows began to fade, she transformed herself into a formidable blues singer. She toured the country throughout the Teens and 1920s, eventually becoming a headliner, sometimes singing with Jazz greats like Jelly Roll Morton and with King Oliver at the Plantation Cafe in Chicago.

In June 1923 she made her first blues recordings, “Graveyard Dream Blues” and “Weary Way Blues,” for the Paramount label. Mayo Williams, the Paramount talent scout who signed Cox, was instrumental in launching the careers of several blues artists, including Ma Rainey.

Cox met with immediate success and went on to record seventy-eight songs between 1923 and 1929, including “Cemetery Blues,” “Handy Man,” and her best-known song, “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues,” which was identified by Angela Y. Davis as “the most famous portrait of the nonconforming, independent woman.” As Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey achieved success and popularity, Paramount promoted Cox as the “Uncrowned Queen of the Blues.”

During the 1920s, she also cut tracks for a variety of labels, including Silvertone, using several different pseudonyms, including Velma Bradley, Kate Lewis, and Julia Powers. She had a longtime musical partnership with female pianist Lovie Austin, and recorded several songs with Austin and Tommy Ladnier on trumpet. She was married to Texas piano man Jesse “Tiny” Crump during the 1920s and 1930s. They recorded together often for Paramount.

A savvy businesswoman, Cox served as her own manager. She produced all her own stage shows through her touring companies, Raisin’ Cain and Darktown Scandals. She hired her own musicians. She wrote most of the songs that she recorded.

Although the music that Cox recorded was blues lyrically, her musical arrangements did not rely on the classic blues instrument, the guitar. In the early years she sang with a band that usually consisted of a piano, trumpet, clarinet, or cornet; and occasionally percussion, drums or a banjo.

Bessie Smith recorded Cox’ “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” and in 1934 Cox and Bessie Smith appeared together in the musical revue Fan Waves at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. She spent most of the rest of the decade on the road until 1939 when she performed regularly at the Cafe Society night club in New York City.

Also in 1939 Cox performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City as part of John Hammond’s second presentation of From Spirituals to Swing. She sang “Lowdown Dirty Shame” and “‘Fore Day Creep” before a sold-out, integrated audience. The historic concert introduced the blues diva to a crowd that was perhaps just beginning to appreciate the artistry and significance of black music.

From Collector’s Classics LP CC56, from a session recorded by Ida Cox and her All Star Band in New York on October 31, 1939. Her All Stars included Hot Lips Page on trumpet and James P. Johnson at the piano.

By 1940 she’d made about a hundred recordings, (eleven alone for Vocalion and Okeh in that year and the prior under the name of ‘Ida Cox and her Allstar Band’ and ‘Ida Cox and her Allstar Orchestra’) with some of the best jazz musicians accompanying her, such as Johnny Dodds, Buster Bailey, Charlie Green, Tommy Ladnier, Kid Ory, James P. Johnson, Lester Young.

In 1945 Cox suffered a stroke when singing at the Moonglow Nightclub in Buffalo, NY. She lived in Chicago for a brief time before returning to Appalachia in 1949. She lived with her daughter in Knoxville, TN, and with her music career behind her, sang exclusively in her church choir until 1961, when she made one last recording, Blues for Rampart Street, at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The album featured an all-star band that included Coleman Hawkins, Milt Hinton, Roy Eldridge and Jo Jones. Cox died of cancer on November 10, 1967.

sources: www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-3175&hl=y
All Music Guide to the Blues, by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Backbeat Books, 2003
‘A candle for queen Ida,’ Black Music Research Journal, by Thomson Gale, March 22, 2003
Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, by Cary D. Wintz, Paul Finkelman, Taylor & Francis, 2004

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