Lucille Bogan

Major Works

  • Shave ‘Em Dry
  • Tricks Ain’t Walkin’ No More
  • Bo-Easy Blues
  • Sloppy Drunk
  • Black Angel
  • Women Don’t Need Men
  • Sweet Patunia
  • Red Cross Store
  • Troubled Mind
  • Baking Powder Blues

Lucille Bogan: A Biography

by Jamie Buehler (SHS)

Jamie Buehler (SHS Researcher)

Jamie Buehler (SHS Researcher)

“Born Lucille Armstrong in Amory, Mississippi, on April 1, 1897, she remained true to her roots as a blues stylist” (MSAlmanac). Lucille Bogan was raised in Birmingham, Alabama (BFC).  According to the Blue Flame Cafe web site,  “Little is known of her early life until 1923, when she made her first recordings for the Okeh Label in New York” (BFC).   Bogan also recorded for the Paramount and Brunswick labels in the 1920’s after she moved to Chicago (BFC).  “Lucille Bogan may be best known for writing and singing Shave ‘Em Dry (BFC). Bogan was considered by many to be the toughest female blues singer of the pre-war era (GEPM).

As early as 1923, Bogan started recording but never worked in a true jazz band atmosphere (GEPM).  After a shaky first recording session, her voice deepened, and by 1927 she was doing well singing blues(?).   In her recordings, she sang about prostitution

(Tricks ain’t Walking’ No More), lesbianism, alcoholism (Sloppy Drunk Blues), and abusive men (Women Don’t Need Men) (BFC). Bogan’s lyrics often had sexual themes. (BFC)  Many of Bogan’s songs were written from the point of view of a street-walker (GEPM).   From 1933 to 1935, she recorded many of the songs she was best known for like Bo Easy Blues and Shave ‘Em Dry (BFC).   She used the pseudonym Bessie Jackson from 1933 to 1935 (BFC).  She expressed herself fluently in her music but sometimes obscenely, as in one session in 1936 (GEPM).   Bogan utilized “a string of gifted pianists including Cow Cow Davenport, Will Ezell and, particularly, Walter Roland” (GEPM); at other times she had as her accompaniment a more ‘countrified’ group, including guitars or even banjos (GEPM).

Bogan was married to Nazareth Bogan and was the mother of two children (GEPM).  After ARC didn’t renew her contract, Bogan returned to Birmingham (BFC).  “Sometime in the late 1930’s to early 1940’s, she moved to the West Coast (BFC).  “After her own career ended, she managed Bogan’s Birmingham Busters, a group organized by her son” (GEPM).   Bogan died of coronary sclerosis in Los Angeles in August of 1948 (GEPM).

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Timeline

  • 1897- Born in Amory, Mississippi
  • 1923- Made her first recordings with the Okeh label in New York
  • 1927- Voice deepened and started her rise to fame
  • 1927- Wrote Women Don’t Need Men
  • 1930- Wrote Tricks Ain’t Walkin’ No More, Sloppy Drunk Blues, Black angel
  • 1933- Wrote Baking Powder Blues, Red Cross Store, Trouble Minded
  • 1935- ARC contract was not renewed
  • 1935- Wrote Shave ‘Em Dry, Bo-East Blues,
  • 1935- Bogan disappeared from the Blues scene
  • 1936- Bogan’s obscene recording session
  • 1948- Died in Los Angeles of coronary sclerosis

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Related Websites

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Bibliography

  • Cox, James, “Lucille Bogan”, Mississippi Musicians Almanac, 1997, 111.
  • Colin Larkin, “Lucille Bogan”, The Guiness Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, Vol. 1, 1994.
  • Hawkings, Walter, “Lucille Bogan”, African American Biographies, 1994, 481.
  • “Lucille Bogan”  Online.  Available http://www.blueflamecafe.com/Lucille_Bogan.html
  • “Lucille Bogan”  Online.  Available  http://www.eyeneer.com/America/Genre/Blues/Profiles/lucille.bogan.htm