Memphis Minnie (June 3, 1897 – August 6, 1973)Born Lizzie Douglas in Algiers, Louisiana, Minnie was one of the most influential and pioneering blues musicians and guitarists of all time. She recorded for forty years, almost unheard of for any woman in show business at the time and not so common in any blues artist. A flamboyant character who wore bracelets made of silver dollars, she was a very popular blues recording artist from the early Depression years through World War II. One of the first generation of blues artists to take up the electric guitar, in 1942, she combined her Louisiana-country roots with Memphis blues to produce her own unique country-blues sound; along with Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red she took country blues into electric urban blues, paving the way for Muddy Water, Bo Diddley, Little Walter and Jimmy Rogers to travel from the small towns of the south to the big cities of the north.
According to some reports she was married three times, each time to an accomplished blues guitarist: Kansas Joe McCoy later of the Harlem Hamfats, possibly Casey Bill Weldon (though there is little if any evidence for this), and Ernest “Little Son Joe” Lawlers.
After learning to play guitar and banjo as a child, she ran away from home at the age of thirteen. She travelled to Memphis, Tennessee, playing guitar in nightclubs and on the street as Lizzie "Kid" Douglas.
The next year, she joined the Ringling Brothers circus. Her marriage and recording début came in 1929, to and with Kansas Joe McCoy, when a Columbia Records talent scout heard them playing in a Beale Street barbershop in their distinctive 'Memphis style,' and their song "Bumble Bee" became a hit.
In the 1930s she moved to Chicago, Illinois with McCoy. She and McCoy broke up in 1935, and by 1939 she was with Little Son Joe Lawlers. In the 1940s she formed a touring vaudeville company. Some of her most potent and enduring work was made in the early 1940s, such as "Nothing in Rambling," "In My Girlish Days," "Looking The World Over" and "Me and My Chauffeur Blues"
After her health began to fail in the mid 1950s, Minnie returned to Memphis and retired from performing and recording. She spent her twilight years in a nursing home in Memphis where she died of a stroke in 1973.
She is buried at the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery in Walls, DeSoto County, Mississippi. A headstone paid for by Bonnie Raitt was erected by the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund on 13 October 1996 with 35 family members in attendance including her sister, numerous nieces and nephews.
Her headstone is marked:
Lizzie "Kid" Douglas Lawlers
aka Memphis Minnie
The inscription on the back of her gravestone reads:
"The hundreds of sides Minnie recorded are the perfect material to teach us about the blues. For the blues are at once general, and particular, speaking for millions, but in a highly singular, individual voice. Listening to Minnie's songs we hear her fantasies, her dreams, her desires, but we will hear them as if they were our own