AMORY – Some may describe her as earthy while others may call her downright dirty. Either way, there's no denying Amory native Lucille Bogan made a name for herself in the blues world as both an African-American and a woman in the late 1800 to early 1900s.
Bogan was born in Amory in 1897 by the name of Lucille Anderson. Raised in Birmingham, Alabama and married at age 17 to Nazareth Lee Bogan, Lucille had a son, Nazareth, Jr.
She later divorced Bogan and remarried to James Spencer who was 17 years younger than she was.
Bogan made her first recordings in the 1920s beginning with vaudeville-style songs for a company out of New York called Okey. Sometime around 1923, she recorded “Pawn Shop Blues” in Atlanta, which marked the first time an African-American blues singer was recorded outside of New York or Chicago.
Her first big success was the recording of “Sweet Petunia” but by 1927, her voice began to deepen. Bogan's response was to simply adapt her singing style and keep going.
By the 1930s, Bogan's lyrics were of a singular nature that often incorporated humorous sexual themes. From 1933 to 1935, she recorded some of her best known songs like “Shave 'Em Dry” and “Bo Easy Blues” using the pseudonym Bessie Jackson.
Bogan recorded hundreds of songs with Cow Cow Davenport, Will Ezell and Walter Roland, an accomplished blues and boogie woogie piano player from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Some of their commercial success included “Seaboard Blues” and “Superstitious Blues.” She even played the accordion on an early recording, which was unusual for the genre.
Her strongest suit, though, was that of songwriters to which she copyrighted dozens of titles.
In addition to writing and recording, Bogan's songs were covered by some of the most well known blues and jazz musicians of her time. Leroy Carr covered “Sloppy Drunk Blues,” Memphis Minnie recorded “Tricks Ain't Walkin' No More,” but perhaps the most well-known artist that covered a Bogan song was B.B. King with “Sweet Little Angel.”
Sometime after 1935, Bogan stopped recording and moved to the West Coast where she managed Bogan's Birmingham Busters, a jazz group organized by her son. Her last known song was composed while living in California. “Gonna Leave Town” turned out to be prophetic. By the time the tune was cut in 1949, Bogan had died of coronary sclerosis. She is buried in Lincoln Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
Bogan has been ranked alongside other great blues artists like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.