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Luella Miller

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Precious little is known about the life of blues vocalist Luella Miller. She is largely remembered for having collaborated with guitarist and violinist Lonnie Johnson. Some say she was born in Texas, others believe she came up in St. Louis or thereabouts. Discovered by a Vocalion talent scout, she made her first records in St. Louis on July 7, 1926. Her next recording date occurred in New York City on January 28, 1927. Between April 26, 1927, and August 1, 1928, she sang on five more recording sessions, all of which took place in Chicago, where her career briefly peaked. Her name appeared in advertisements published in the Chicago Defender, North America's most influential Afro-American weekly, on nine occasions between November 1926 and November 1928. Like her personal life, Luella Miller's 78-rpm discography is peppered with question marks. Was it Dewey Jackson or Andrew "Big Babe" Webb on cornet? Was the pianist on her final recording session Jimmy Blythe or James Johnson? What is known is that this woman made 35 recordings in two years' time, and that 13 of these sides were not released. Her "North Wind Blues" backed with "East St. Louis Blues" was issued on Vocalion as by Luella Miller & her Dago Hill Strutters. Although her singing was substantial and passionate, given the rather repetitive nature of her material it is not surprising that by August of 1928 the men who ran Vocalion felt that they had more than enough material. With the end of her recording career, Luella Miller completely disappears from view, and posterity is left holding a handful of scratchy old records reissued on compact disc. No information has surfaced regarding her exact origins, upbringing, or personal history after she stopped making records. She remains one of the most obscure of all early blues musicians. ~ arwulf arwulf

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