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Lucille Bogan (Bessie Jackson), Vol. 3 [1934-1935]

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Album Review

The third and final volume of Lucille Bogan's complete works as presented by Document in 1994 allows the listener to savor 23 recordings made between July 1934 and March 1935, with pianist Walter Roland, and guitarists Bob Campbell and Josh White. It was during this period that Bogan chose to record under the name of Bessie Jackson. "You Got to Die Some Day" has a familiar ring to it, and might well be the source for a line in Eddie Durham and Jimmy Rushing's "Sent for You Yesterday," a major hit for Count Basie and other big-band leaders during the late 1930s. "I Hate That Train Called the M. and O." is one of several Bogan songs inspired by locomotives. Because this particular train separated her from the man that she loved, the emotions expressed here are undiluted and powerfully direct. "Pig Iron Sally," like the train songs rooted in the industrialized territory where she lived and worked, is the testimony of a woman who protects herself by claiming to be filled with Evil. The underlying message is as clear and concise as a crossbow: "Do Not Mess with Me." In many ways, the blues is often used like a diary. Whenever she expressed herself in front of a recording microphone, this singer reflected on who she was, the kind of a world she lived in, and the sort of people who inhabited it. "B.D. Woman's Blues" is about "Bull Dykes"; women who exclusively prefer the company of other women and display what are considered to be masculine characteristics. "Barbecue Bess" is a lusty conflation of flesh (sexual pleasures) and meat (carnivorous dining), both delectable topics for insatiable appetites. "Shave 'Em Dry" exists here in three versions. The first, a cover of a song by Ma Rainey, is a straightforward blues garnished with traditional references to interpersonal relationships and straight-edged razor blades. The two unissued takes could never have been put before the public in the '30s because of the outrageously pornographic lyrics, but were most likely quite popular on the private party circuit. Stash Records made an obscene take available to an appreciative new generation in 1976 on their Copulatin' Blues collection. The sexual imagery is every bit as extreme as the smuttiest outbursts of Jelly Roll Morton's 1938 Library of Congress sessions. After bragging about nipples as stiff as thumbs and seemingly Olympic bouts of frenzied copulation, Bogan (or Bessie Jackson, as she was then called) conjures up a weird architectural edifice as the man's erect penis poses as a church steeple and his sphincter becomes the portal, through which "...the crabs walks in like people!" After describing this bizarre hallucination, which suggests a passage from either the electroshock journals of Antonin Artaud or Lautreamont's Les Chants de Maldoror, she busts out laughing and has to struggle to contain herself in order to finish her wild performance. After 1935, Lucille Bogan stopped making records and moved back to Birmingham, AL, where she managed her son's band, known as Bogan's Birmingham Rhythm Busters. This group, which included trumpeter Martin Barnett, saxophonist Lee Golden, pianist Robert McCoy, and washboard percussionist Clarence Curly, cut two sides for Vocalion in March of 1937. It's a pity that Document didn't dig these up and include them as a footnote at the end of this collection. Lucille Bogan eventually moved to Los Angeles where she died a victim of coronary sclerosis in 1948. Since the reissue of most of her works by Document in 1994, her name and voice have become familiar to small numbers of dedicated classic blues lovers worldwide.


Born: 01 April 1897 in Amory, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s

Bessie Jackson was a pseudonym of Lucille Bogan, a classic female blues artist from the '20s and '30s. Her outspoken lyrics deal with sexuality in a manner that manages to raise eyebrows even within a genre that is about as nasty as recorded music ever got prior to the emergence of artists such as 2 Live Crew or Ludacris. The name change seems to be quite different in her case than the usual pattern among blues artists who recorded under other names simply to make an end run around pre-existing recording...
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