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A Mississippi singer/guitarist, Jessie Mae Hemphill weaves strong Delta traditions into her idiosyncratic style. Hemphill comes from a musical background — reportedly, her grandfather was recorded in the fields by Alan Lomax in the '40s. Jessie Mae learned how to play guitar as a child by watching her relatives perform. Throughout the '60s and '70s, she sang with various Mississippi bar bands. In the early '80s, she decided to pursue a solo career.
Hemphill began playing solo dates, supporting herself only with an acoustic guitar and percussion. In 1981, she released her debut album, She-Wolf, on the European record label, Vogue. In 1987, her first American record, Feelin' Good, was released. In 1987 and 1988, she won the W.C. Handy Award for best tradtional female blues artist. Hemphill abandoned a recording career after the late '80s, but she continued to perform into the '90s.