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Woman With Guitar – Memphis Minnie’s Blues | Book Review

Woman With Guitar – Memphis Minnie Blues
Written by Paul & Beth Garon
City Lights Books
407 pages

by MARK THOMPSON. This biographical study was first published in 1992 by Da Capo Press. In the ensuing years, researchers like Jim O’Neal, Robert Pruter, and Bob Eagle have uncovered additional information and documents that, combined with the original work, give us more insight into the life and career of Memphis Minnie, one of the most prolific blues singers in history. The authors, Paul & Beth Garon, have collected all of the new findings and incorporated them into a study that explores Minnie’s music and how it reflected the world that she lived in. Minnie Douglas was born on June 3, 1897 supposedly in Algiers, Louisiana. Research has cast some doubts about the location, which causes some speculation by the authors. Her father was a sharecropper but Minnie never fancied the hard life on a farm. She received a guitar for Christmas at age eight, setting in motion an interest in music that would provide an escape route from field work. Soon she was running off to hang out on Beale Street in Memphis, where she undoubtedly was schooled on singing and guitar techniques. Soon she hit the road as part of a touring Ringling Brothers show, rounding out her rough edges and teaching her the value of showmanship as well as the art of survival. The book adds this quote from bluesman Johnny Shines, “She didn’t take no foolishness off them (men). ..anything she get her hands on she’d use it; ..Memphis Minnie used to be a hellcat.” READ MORE