VICTORIA SPIVEY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Victoria Spivey was born in Houston, Texas on October 15, 1906. She began her career singing and playing piano in local saloons and whorehouses, often working with Blind Lemon Jefferson in her early years. In 1926, she recorded her first song, "Black Snake Blues", for the Okeh Record label. Spivey moved to St. Louis and in the late 1920's she worked for the St. Louis Music Company as a songwriter. She also made her movie debut in the all African-American production of Hallelujah. In the 1930's, she recorded for Victor, Vocalion, Okeh, and Decca record labels.

During this decade as the demand for female blues musicians declined, Victoria continued to perform in vaudeville and various road shows, appearing in the Hellzapoppin' road show in the 1940's. Victoria Spivey was a part of the classical female blues era and although she lacked the vocal refinement of Bessie Smith, she had a true gritty voice that showed her country roots. In addition to being a vibrant performer, she was a very savvy businesswoman. She reduced her level of live performances in the 1950's, although she continued to work in New York,  and opened her own record company called Spivey Records in 1962. She recorded Lucille Hegamin, Muddy Waters, and Big Joe Williams on her label. She started the company during the period of the resurgence of blues and folk and was extremely successful.

Spivey was also a gifted writer and wrote many songs including "TB Blues" which was about the rejection tuberculosis patients faced in the 20's, and "Dope Head Blues" which might be the first song about cocaine abuse. Victoria Spivey continued to record until her death on October 3, 1976.