Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Jessie Mae Hemphill


Jessie Mae Hemphill Jessie Mae Hemphill, Photo courtesy of catfishkeith.com

Major Works

  • She Wolf (Hear She-Wolf)
    • Standing In My Doorway Crying
    • Jump, Baby, Jump
    • Take Me Home with You, Baby
    • Black Cat Bone
    • Boogie 'Side the Road
    • Hard Times
    • Crawdad Hole
    • Married Man Blues
    • Honey Bee
    • Overseas Blues
    • Loving in the Moonlight
    • Bullyin' Well
    • Jessie's Boogie
    • My Lord Do Just What He Say
  • Feelin' Good
    • Feelin' Good
    • Go Back To Your Used To BeFeelin' Good by Jessie Mae Hemphill
    • Streamline Train
    • Baby, Please Don't Go
    • Tell Me You Love Me
    • Shake It, Baby
    • Shame On You
    • My Daddy's Blues
    • Brokenhearted Blues
    • Rolling and Tumbling
    • Eagle Bird
    • Cowgirl Blues
    • Merry Christmas, Pretty Baby
    • Lord, Help the Poor and Needy

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Jessie Mae Hemphill: A Biography
By Talisha R. Davis (SHS)

Jessie Mae Hemphill, a blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter, was born on the 18th day of October. However, there is some discrepancy as to the year she was born.  According to Larken, the editor of the Guinness Book of Popular Music, Hemphill was born in 1937 (1905), but the AMG All Music Guide states that she was born in 1934. Jessie is a native of Senatobia, Mississippi, (but some sources list Como, Mississippi,) and she came from a family background of singers and musicians. It is said that her grandfather Sid Hemphill was recorded in the fields in the 1940's by the well-known folklorist Alan Lomax. Hemphill learned how to play the guitar simply by watching her older relatives perform. That's not all; she also learned how to play the drums by watching others perform at picnics and parties, according to Santelli, the editor of the Big Book of Blues (173). Jessie can also play a tambourine with her foot. She began to sing with blues bands during the early 60's and continued throughout the late 70's.SHS researcher Talisha Davis

In the beginning of the 1980's, she pursued a solo career (Larkin, 1905). In 1981, she released her first album  She - Wolf under Vogue, a European record label. She then recorded an American album Feelin' Good  in 1987 with High Water Records (Santelli, 173). She won the Best Traditional Female Blues Artist a year later in 1988.

Hemphill stopped recording but continued to perform throughout the 1990's, according to the newsletter, "Pulling Blues out of the Sky,"  Her music career suddenly came to an end in 1994 when a stroke left her partially paralyzed on her left side, leaving her her unable to play musical instruments (Catfishkeith.com). 

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Timeline

1934--  October 18, Date of birth, according to AMG All Music Guide, in Senatobia, Mississippi

1937-   October 18, Date of birth, according to Guinness Book of Popular Music

1946 -  Fires her mother's pistol for the first time at age nine

1950's  Plays and sings as a young girl with the West Memphis Blues Band

1960's - Sings with various Mississippi bar bands

1970's - Producer/guitarist David Evans discovers Hemphill

1980's - Sings with pickup blues bands
          - Goes overseas to Germany, Sweden, and Holland

1981-   Releases song She - WolfShe-Wolf by Jessie Mae Hemphill
         -  Pursues a solo career

1987 -  Releases album Feelin' Good
        -  Wins the W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Female Blues Artist

1988 - Wins the W.C. Handy Award again
        -  Plays to more and bigger crowds

1990 - Hightone Records re-issues Jessie Mae Hemphill's " Feelin Good " In demand at blues festivals and concert halls all over the US and Europe

1994 - Jessie has a stroke and is partially paralyzed on her left side.

2000--Confined to a wheelchair and lives in Senatobia, Mississippi

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Related Websites

Excellent write-up about Jessie and her music by RETROradio's Smitty Ray Barlow.
This page is an update on Jessie Mae Hemphill by  Catfish.
This site lists songs from her album, bio, and photos.
Excite's biography is found here, but it provides no new info.


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Bibliography

Classic American Delta Blues [online] Available at http:// www.iei. net/~drifter/blues/hemphill. html /April 20, 2000.

Larkin, Colin, ed. " Jessie Hemphill " The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Vol. 3. New York: Stockton Press, 1995. 1905.

Jessie Mae Hemphill [online] Available at http://allmusic.com/, April 12, 2000.

Music Hound Blues: The Essential Album Guide (Visible Ink Press)

"Pistol Packing Mama " [online  Available at http:// www.hightone. com/ April 20, 2000.

"Pulling Blues Out of the Sky " [online] Available at http:// catfishkeith. com/ April 13, 2000.

Santelli, Robert. The Big Book of Blues. New York: Penguin Books 1993. 173.

Update on Jessie Mae Hemphill [ online ] Available at http:// www.ask jeeves. com/ April 13, 2000. 

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Last updated in 2000
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