Lucille Hegamin

Lucille Nelson, b. November 29, 1894 in Macon, GA, d. March 1, 1970 in New York, NY. Hegamin was recorded from 1920 onwards, in the wake of Mamie Smith’s breakthrough for black singers. Her background was in vaudeville, which required versatility and the ability to respond to popular taste. Her repertoire on record is more blues-inflected black pop than pure blues, but the songs often have great charm, and Hegamin’s delivery, forceful but melodious and flexible with precise, clear diction, is very appealing. She stopped recording in 1926, excluding one 1932 record, but continued stage and club work (she gained stardom with the touring company of Shuffle Along in the role played on Broadway by Florence Mills) until 1934, when she became a nurse. Coaxed out of retirement, she made some fine recordings in 1961 and 1962 before returning to the church work that occupied her final years.

Lucille Hegamin's stylistic influences included Annette Hanshaw and Ruth Etting. According to Derrick Stewart-Baxter, "Lucille's clear, rich voice, with its perfect diction, and its jazz feeling, was well in the vaudeville tradition, and her repertoire was wide." Like Mamie Smith, Hegamin sang classic female blues in a lighter, more pop-tune influenced style than the rougher rural-style blues singers such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith who became more popular a few years later.

Lucille Hegamin died in Harlem Hospital in New York on March 1, 1970, and was interred in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York.