14 Songs, 37 Minutes


About Thelma Cooper

Only the stuffiest, most puritanical of listeners wouldn't want to spend an evening with the likes of Thelma "Baby Doll" Cooper, Daisy Mae Diggs, and the Hep Cats. This combination has been offered to blues collectors in both the vinyl and compact-disc era on the Krazy Kat and Collectables labels, respectively. Cooper -- who might also have been someone else named Cooper, a section of the plot to be revealed later -- and Diggs were actually rivals, and it was the Hep Cats and similar great studio bands that provided the link between the two, that and Gotham Records producer Irv Ballen. Cooper, who was sometimes backed up by Doc Bagby's Orchestra, cut some half-dozen sides in the late '40s, including "Cute Pappa," "Boyfriends," and "Oooh! Daddy."

Her obvious interest in men and romance naturally led to her inclusion on at least one anthology of so-called "naughty blues." Cooper's request entitled "I Want a Man" is relatively tame, at least from the standards of what is revealed in the title. The song's full title is actually "I Want a Man for Christmas," adding the important revelation that this is a holiday song. The aforementioned "Cute Pappa" seems to get the most praise of any in her discography. Cooper's scat singing on this number as well as her interaction with partner Doles Dickens are both outstanding. When one critic comments that it's "amazing how closely her voice matches that of namesake Dolly Cooper," it naturally leads to speculation. The artist who recorded as Dolly Cooper and also under the name of Little Clydie is known for a record entitled "Big Rock Inn," which has been described as one of the great recordings of rock & roll by a black female. Yes, this distinction would fit both Thelma Cooper and Dolly Cooper, but are they the same person? Despite Thelma Cooper's somewhat related nickname of "Baby Doll," and despite the fact that Dolly Cooper's name at birth was apparently Thelma Cooper, it has still not been determined that the two recording artists were the same. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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