Entertainment & Technology

Memphis Minnie

Hip Shakin’ Royalty of Country Blues

The Right Reverend Zebra Davis has called her a “sassy, brassy, hip shakin’, guitar slinging mama.”  Indeed, she was all of that and much more.


She was born Lizzie Douglas in Algiers, Louisiana in 1897. But the world quickly came to know her as  Kid Douglas and, then, as Memphis Minnie.

Kid started on the banjo at age ten and moved over to the guitar at 11. By thirteen she had run away from home and played corners on Beale street in Memphis. By the time she was 18 she ran away again, this time with Ringling Brothers Circus. After that short tour, she returned to Memphis and earned her money playing in the local Memphis music scene of the 1920s. She also supplemented her income by becoming a member of the world’s oldest profession. (Not totally uncommon for women performers of that era)

She began playing and recording with a partner who become her second husband, Joe McCoy. One day while playing in front of a local barber shop, Joe and Kid were discovered by a talent scout for Columbia Records. He quickly took them to New York City to record. They were now known as “Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie.”

Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy, circa 1929

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