Tonight’s selections: Hill Country blues from Jessie Mae Hemphill.
One of the few female performers of country blues, Jessie Mae Hemphill (c. 1923 – 2006) was a multi-instrumentalist who performed in local fife and drum bands before gaining international recognition in the 1980s as a vocalist and guitarist. Her grandfather, Sid Hemphill, was a leading musician in the area, and his daughters, including Jessie Mae’s mother Virgie Lee, all played drums and stringed instruments. She is buried here at the Senatobia Memorial Cemetery.
Jessie Mae Hemphill, who struck a unique chord with blues fans due to her colorful personality and attire and her choice of instruments, represented deep and rich traditions in the Senatobia area. Her great-grandfather, Dock Hemphill, was a fiddler who was born a slave, and her grandfather, Sid Hemphill (c. 1876-1963), played fiddle, guitar, banjo, drums, fife, mandolin, organ, and quills. Folklorists Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress and Lewis Jones of Fisk University documented Hemphill’s broad repertoire at a recording session in Sledge in 1942. Lomax, who recorded music around the world and returned to record Hemphill in 1959, later recalled that encountering Hemphill’s fife and drum music was the “main find of my whole career.”
Sid Hemphill’s daughters, Rosa Lee, Sidney, and Virgie Lee, were all musicians, and when Jessie Mae was a small girl her grandfather inspired her to take up guitar, harmonica, and drums. During the 1950s she sang briefly with bands in Memphis, but most of her early musical experiences were local. Folklorist George Mitchell, who included chapters on her and her aunt Rosa Lee Hill in his book Blow My Blues Away, recorded her in the late ’60s. Her first 45 rpm single, produced by Dr. David Evans, was released on the University of Memphis’ High Water label in 1980. Hemphill subsequently toured the U.S. and Europe, recorded several albums, and won several W. C. Handy Awards for traditional blues. She played drums behind fife player Otha Turner on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and gained broader acclaim via her appearance in the 1992 documentary film Deep Blues. — MS Blues Trail
All my daddy’s brothers and sisters, and mama’s, way on back to the first generation was musicians. I’m the fourth generation. Granddaddy never did go in the fields. He raised his girls playin’ music. They’d go with him, help him make the money. One be playin’ guitar, one banjo, one floor bass. So he had his own daughter band. When I came along, I got up there.
I was playin drum when I was nine. The big drum, too — always be some man to hold the big drum up for me and I would stand up on the Coca Cola box. I made more money than my granddaddy did. They just gave me money, money, money. I was so little and could beat that drum and wouldn’t miss no time and people just be hollerin’.
I done learned myself guitar. My mama played too, I learned by lookin’ at her, I had music in my head all the time. When I was 9, 10 years old I hear something on the record player and come home and play it. I could play anything. — Jessie Mae Hemphill
Standing in My Doorway Crying 
It would be another ethnomusicologist in the [Alan] Lomax mould who would realise the importance of Jessie Mae Hemphill. David Evans was working at the University of Memphis when he encouraged Jessie to build up a collection of her own material. With over half a century of living under her belt, the tales came pouring out, and in 1981 her debut album, ‘She-Wolf’, was released. A pounding, compelling thing driven by Jessie’s rhythmic, twanging electric guitar, it featured the perfectly audacious ‘Married Man Blues’ (“I got something to tell you babe/I don’t want you to tell your wife”) as well as the thumping title track, which casts Jessie as Howlin’ Wolf in silver stilettos. Then there’s the addictively sorrowful ‘Standing In My Doorway Crying’, which Jessie told her friend Cree McCree was written when she’d had her heart broken. “I said I’m gonna make me a record and get on away from him,” explained Jessie. “And I went to town and bought me a mic and and amp. I already had my guitar. And I went back home, and when I got ‘Standing in the Doorway Crying’ goin’, I played it all night. ‘Til the sun rose, girl, I picked it all night. Drinkin’ coffee all night and played it all night. And I said I know this gonna be a record.” — The Forty Five
I’m So Glad You Don’t Know What’s on My Mind 
WHO’S TALKING TO WHO?
Jimmy Kimmel: Bartees Strange
Jimmy Fallon: John Lithgow, Noah Schnapp, 070 Shake
Stephen Colbert: Tom Hanks
Seth Meyers: Emma Thompson, Jack Quaid, Sandy Honig, Alyssa Stonoha, Mitra Jouhari, Jordyn Blakely
James Corden: RuPaul, Vanessa Bayer, Bishop Briggs
The Daily Show: Ed Helms
A late night gathering for non serious palaver that does not speak of that night’s show. Posting a spoiler will get you brollywhacked. You don’t want that to happen to you. It's a fate worse than a fate worse than death.
Ted Drozdowski's Scissormen. Straight outta Memphis. Guitar and drums; bass would only get in the way.
Scissormen :: Tupelo 
LAST WEEK’S POLL: FROM 'LEWDEST SOUNDING TOWN NAMES', WHICH IS NOT A REAL PLACE? (PT.2)
Bare Bottom, KY 12% 2 votes
Intercourse, PA 6% 1 vote
Lubers, CO 6% 1 vote
Rough & Ready, CA 29% 5 votes
Spread Eagle, WI 24% 4 votes
Three Way, AZ 18% 3 votes
Weiner, AR 6% 1 vote
Bare Bottom, KY is not a real place.