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Sadie James

Sadie James was a classic female blues singer, active 1920s.

When it comes to the blues genre, the surname "James" brings to mind reverb-drenched electric slide guitars, and the Elmore James' tale of brooms being dusted. Or, the blues fan might immediately think of the sweet country blues artist, Skip James, his intricate and gentle fingerpicking and eerie falsetto vocals that were imitated by rock groups such as Cream and Canned Heat. The slight recording career of Sadie James consists of only two songs cut for Victor in 1927; and although these numbers have been reissued several times, she remains an ultra-obscure artist, not one whose name is likely to come up when blues fans are playing the "James game." This situation is possibly shameful, as it means an essential bit of philosophy, the answer to one of life's great questions is going unheard and undiscovered, mainly "What Makes a Bow-Legged Woman Crazy?" Actually, when the full title of this song is printed it makes even more sense: "What Makes a Bow-Legged Woman Crazy About Her Knock-Kneed Man."

James was one of dozens of female blues singers who cut songs in this period with lyrics ranging from slightly to incredibly nasty, accompanied usually by a pianist and sometimes a clarinet, trumpet, or banjo. For every classic female blues artist who became a big cheese, such as Bessie Smith or Alberta Hunter, there were many others such as James who only recorded a couple of numbers before dropping off the face of the earth. Tracks cut by these singers, including Edna Johnson, Alura Mack, and Coletha Simpson among others, have been compiled on collections such as Blue Girls, Vol. 1: 1924-1930 on the Document label.
by Eugene Chadbourne