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Bernice Edwards

Bernice Edwards (aka Moanin' Bernice Edwards, Moanin' Bernice, Houston Bernice Edwards, Bernice Duke), b. c. 1907 in Katy, TX, d. February 26, 1969 in Houston, TX, classic female blues singer, pianist and songwriter. She recorded a total of 21 tracks between 1926 and 1935. Unusually for the time, Robinson composed some of her own work. Details of her life outside of the recording studio are sketchy.

Bernice Edwards was probably born in Katy and raised in Houston, Texas, United States. Although Edwards was not blood-related, she grew up with the musical family including Beulah Belle, George, Hociel and Hersal Thomas. During her time with them she learned to play the piano. In 1923, she relocated along with George and Hersal Thomas to Chicago, Illinois. Five years later, at two separate recording sessions in February and November 1928, Edwards recorded twelve songs for Paramount Records, which included "Moaning Blues". This title may have led to her being sometimes billed as 'Moanin' Bernice (Edwards)'. She accompanied herself while singing the mainly slow blues songs, which also included her version of "Long Tall Mama." Her common theme was of the 'lowlife' and mean men, as typified by the aforementioned plus "Mean Man Blues" and "Hard Hustling Blues." Some of her early material was released under the name of Bernice Duke. In 1935, Edwards returned to the recording studio, this time in Fort Worth, Texas for American Record Corporation. Alongside Black Boy Shine, she recorded piano duets including one entitled "Hot Mattress Stomp". The recording included some guitar playing by J. T. "Funny Papa" Smith. Her own piano playing had also gained in dynamics since her first visit to a recording studio. Her self-penned track "Butcher Shop Blues" (1935), extended the analogy of meat for sexual innuendo, although her vocals on it appeared to be less strong and expressive. Following the Fort Worth session, Edwards apparently got married and joined the church, after which nothing much more is known of her life. According to researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc, she died in Hermann Hospital in Houston in 1969, aged about 62. Her work has appeared on various compilation albums.


by Joslyn Layne
Blues woman Bernice Edwards grew up in Texas with Sippie Wallace, George, Hociel & Hersal Thomas. It was there she learned to play piano, and later accompanied herself while singing blues songs like "Long Tall Mama," which she recorded in the late 1920s.