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Ginni Clemmens

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Chicago folk and blues singer Ginni Clemmens was born in the city's Evergreen Park area and raised in the south suburbs. The child of a big band musician, she sang in her school choir and learned guitar but pursued a calling in nursing instead of music, working for five years in a California facility for mentally handicapped children. In time, Clemmens dusted off her guitar and began performing as a means of entertaining her young patients, eventually returning to Chicago to launch a professional music career; by day, she tenured at a nursing home, but at night, she was a fixture at clubs including Mother Blues, the Earl of Old Town, Poor Richard's, and the Gate of Horn. During the late '50s, Clemmens adopted the banjo, later teaching guitar and banjo lessons at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music; she regularly performed with aspiring folk singers John Prine and Steve Goodman, and once opened for Bob Dylan at Mother Blues. Clemmens was also an early and vocal supporter of the feminist movement, and was a regular presence on the nascent women's music festival circuit; among her signatures was a rendition of Ida Cox's "Wild Women Don't Get the Blues," and she even taught the song to pop singer Mama Cass Elliot, who recorded her own version of the tune. Clemmens' albums include Sing a Rainbow and Other Children's Songs, I'm Lookin' for Some Longtime Friends, and Lopin' Along Thru the Cosmos; in 1988, she relocated to Hawaii, and tropical life formed the basis for her final LP, the self-released Underneath Hawaiian Skies. In 2000, she was the recipient of the Jeannine Ray Award for her contributions to women's music. Clemmens died February 15, 2003, from injuries suffered in a car crash in Maui; she was 66 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny

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1936 in Chicago, IL

Years Active:

'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s