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Virginia Liston

Virginia Liston b. 1890, d. June, 1932 in St. Louis, MO, classic female blues and jazz singer. She spent most of her career in black vaudeville. Liston recorded "You Can Dip Your Bread in My Gravy, but You Can't Have None of My Chops," and "Just Take One Long Last Lingering Look." She performed with her then-husband, Samuel H. Gray, billed as Liston and Liston. She also performed with Clarence Williams, singing with the Clarence Williams Blue Five on "You've Got the Right Key, but the Wrong Keyhole" and "Early in the Morning" and the Clarence Williams Washboard Band on "Cushion Foot Stomp," and "P.D.Q. Blues."

Little is known about Liston's childhood. She made her start in show business about 1912 in either Philadelphia or Washington, D.C. In 1920 she was married to a fellow entertainer, Sam Gray, and toured with him as a husband-and-wife act on the Theater Owners Bookers Association circuit, billed as Liston and Liston. The billing was unusual, but because Liston was better known than Gray, he took her surname. In January 1924 they recorded one single together. By 1925 they had divorced. Liston met Clarence Williams in the early 1920s. He first recorded with her for Okeh Records in September 1923. Thirty-six tracks were released in Liston's name up to 1926, on Okeh and Vocalion Records. The most noteworthy are those recorded by Liston and Williams's Blue Five, which at that time included Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. By 1927 Liston had made her final recording session, singing "Cushion Foot Stomp" and "P.D.Q. Blues" with the Clarence Williams Washboard Band. Her song "You Don't Know My Mind Blues" was credited to the songwriting team of Gray, Liston and Williams. Several of her songs contained sexual innuendo, such as "Rolls Royce Papa", written by Liston and recorded in 1926, in which she sang of a man with a "bent piston rod." In 1929 Liston remarried and announced her retirement from show business. She relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, and worked for her church. She died in June 1932 in St. Louis. The cause of death is unknown.


by Uncle Dave Lewis
Virginia Liston was one of the blues singers whose career was spent primarily in Black vaudeville. She is said to have gotten her start in show business around 1912 in Washington D.C. In 1920 she married entertainer Sam Gray and toured with him as part of a husband-and-wife team called Liston & Liston. They divorced in 1925. In the early '20s Liston came in contact with Clarence Williams, who recorded with her for Okeh for the first time in September, 1923. Thirty-six issued sides for Okeh and Vocalion came out under Virginia Liston's name through the summer of 1926, the most famous being a pairing that united Liston with Clarence Williams' Blue Five, then including Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. Virginia Liston remarried and retired from show business in 1929, afterward settling in St. Louis to work in the church. Three years later she was dead.