Lucille Bogan was among the first classic blues singers to be recorded and to have a strong influence on many later blues artists. She was born Lucille Anderson on 1 April 1897 in Amory, Mississippi. Her family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, when she was very young. She married Nazareth Lee Bogan in 1914 and gave birth to a son, Nazareth Bogan Jr., the following year. She moved to Chicago in the late 1920s and to New York in the early 1930s, probably moved back to Birmingham in the mid-1930s, and spent her later years in Los Angeles.
She was first recorded in Atlanta by the OKeh label in 1923, making her the first blues singer recorded outside the record industry centers of Chicago and New York. She went on to record for Paramount (1927), Brunswick (1928–30), Banner (1933–35), and the American Record Company (1934–35). After 1933 Bogan began recording under the name Bessie Jackson, probably in an attempt to get around recording contracts. Bogan ultimately recorded almost one hundred songs.
Bogan’s style helped define the classic blues sound of the 1920s, though her first recordings were, like those of many early female blues singers, more from the vaudeville tradition than blues. She was also very much influenced by singer Viola McCoy, whose songs Bogan covered early in her career. Her songs often dealt with highly sexual themes as well as gambling and alcoholism. Titles such as “Coffee Grindin’ Blues,” “Tricks Ain’t Walking No More,” and “Stew Meat Blues” often contain thinly veiled double meanings. Other song titles are more direct: “Cravin’ Whiskey Blues,” “Drinking Blues,” and “Sloppy Drunk Blues.” Songs such as “B[ull]. D[yke]. Woman’s Blues” address lesbianism; the song’s opening line states “Comin’ a time, B.D. womens ain’t gonna need no men.”
Her songs have been performed by many blues artists. “Sloppy Drunk Blues” was recorded by Walter Davis, Leroy Carr, John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, and Jimmy Rogers. “Black Angel Blues” was recorded by Tampa Red, Robert Nighthawk, B. B. King, Buddy Guy, and others.
Bogan died of coronary sclerosis in Los Angeles on 10 August 1948.
- Robert Dixon, John Godrich, and Howard Rye, Blues and Gospel Records, 1890–1943 (1997)
- Bob Eagle, Living Blues (Autumn 1979); Sheldon Harris, Blues Who’s Who (1981)
- Guido Van Rijn, Encyclopedia of the Blues (2006)