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Sippie Wallace

Sippie Wallace, "The Texas Nightingale," was one of the major blues artists of the 1920s, whose renown as a performer carried well into the 1980s. Wallace was respected as both a blues singer and songwriter. Such original songs as "Mighty Tight Woman" and "Women Be Wise," which found new audiences with younger music listeners in the 1970s, are earthy and self-assertive blues songs. She is best remembered, however, as one of the foremost interpreters of the blues. Possessing a mellow and tuneful voice, she had the qualities of shading and inflection in her singing that marked the classic blues artist.

One of Wallace's specialties was the "shout," a precursor to the modern blues, in which the singer often repeats two lines of a song, and improvises a third. Wallace, who frequently sang without a microphone, was influenced by blues great Ma Rainey, yet developed a style all her own. In her earliest work she attempted to project a vocal weightiness similar to that of Ma Rainey. Later she sang in a manner better suited to the lighter, prettier qualities of her voice. Wallace composed most of her own songs, which are notable for the shapeliness and dignity of their melodies."

Wallace learned music in her father's Baptist church in Houston, Texas, where she played the organ and sang gospel music. She was nicknamed "Sippie" because, as she states, "my teeth were so far apart and I had to sip everything." Around 1910, she moved with her family to New Orleans, where Sippie's brother George W., Jr., a professional musician and composer, lived. The Wallace’s later returned to Houston, and while she was in her late teens she began performing with traveling tent shows. Wallace learned blues and ragtime music in the shows, in addition to performing in chorus lines and acting in comedy skits. These experiences influenced her contributions as a blues artist.

In the 1920s, Wallace gained a national reputation as a recording artist, working with Okeh Records in Chicago. She recorded a number of solo albums, and also worked with other jazz greats, including Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. She continued theatrical touring in the 1920s, and frequently worked with another brother, Hersal, himself a respected jazz pianist. In 1929 Wallace settled in Detroit, where she would live for the rest of her life. In the 1930s she became active again in gospel music, and played the organ and sang for the Leland Baptist Church. Wallace only occasionally recorded in the 1940s through early 1960s.

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Cody Navarro
voice / vocals

Photos

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Women Be Wise

Alligator Records
1992

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(1924-1927)

Unknown label
1990

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That Red Hot Mama

Unknown label
1981

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