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Bertha "Chippie" Hill 1925-1929

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Album Review

There isn't a whole lot of Bertha "Chippie" Hill available in any audio format. In 1997 Document released 24 of her classic early recordings, and that CD still stands as the definitive monument to her artistry. Trained to perform in vaudeville while still a girl, then schooled in theatrical presentation by Ethel Waters, Ma Rainey, and King Oliver, she outgrew the vaudeville upbringing and perfected a straightforward blues delivery while making these records during the years 1925-1929. Her first sessions were shared with cornetist Louis Armstrong and pianist Richard M. Jones, composer of "Trouble in Mind" and more than a few of the other songs heard on this collection. Anyone seeking insights about blues, jazz, and human nature needs to savor Louis Armstrong's interactions with Bertha "Chippie" Hill. She is also backed by Richard M. Jones' Jazz Wizards (with clarinetist Artie Starks doing his best to complement her passionate delivery); guitarist Lonnie Johnson, who recorded during this period with artists as diverse as Duke Ellington, Texas Alexander, and Eddie Lang; guitarist Scrapper Blackwell and pianist Leroy Carr; pianist and songwriter Georgia Tom (Thomas A. Dorsey); and guitarist Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker) and bassist Bill Johnson of New Orleans. The gravitational pull of the blues is nicely counterweighted by "Non-Skid Tread," an amusing study in hokum for kazoo and continuo. Bertha "Chippie" Hill had a nice comeback during the 1940s, during which she received international recognition. Even as her later recordings are powerful and well worth exploring, the recordings she made in the 1920s define her as an individual and, to some extent, the entire human race as a species.


Born: 15 March 1905 in Charleston, SC

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s

One of the better classic blues singers of the 1920s (and much less vaudeville-oriented than many of her contemporaries), Chippie Hill was one of the few singers of her generation to make a full-fledged comeback in the '40s. One of 16 children, she started working in 1916 as a dancer before she became better known as a singer. She toured with Ma Rainey's Rabbit Foot Minstrels and went on to become a solo performer on vaudeville for a long period. Hill settled in Chicago in 1925 and recorded regularly...
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Bertha "Chippie" Hill 1925-1929, Bertha "Chippie" Hill
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