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*On this date in 1895, Lizzie Miles was born. She was a Black cabaret and blues singer.
Born Elizabeth Landreaux, she was a light-skinned Creole who was born on Bourbon Street in New Orlean, LA. Miles used her beauty and her huge voice to create a sophisticated, urbane style that was more suited for settings like the Cotton Club in Harlem than the tent shows of the South. Miles began her career singing in front of New Orleans bands that included such noted jazz musicians as King Oliver and Kid Ory, though, in her youth, she had worked Southern vaudeville shows and even joined up with a circus.
Eventually she left New Orleans and moved to Chicago, then to New York, Paris, and back again to New York, all the while working clubs and cabarets. She recorded for Okeh in 1921 and later did sessions for Emerson, Columbia, and Victor. Although her recording catalog isn’t large, songs such as State Street Blues demonstrate the vocal dexterity she possessed. In the late 1930s, Miles returned to New Orleans and retired. However, in the 1950s, she resumed her career, performing and recording with the Bob Scobey Band and appearing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958. She retired a second time in 1959.
Miles sang pop ballads, vaudeville standards, and jazz-colored blues, both in French and English. During her prime, she attracted the same kind of audience that made Edith Wilson, Alberta Hunter, and Lucille Hegamin stars. Never dubbed a classic blues woman, when she sang the blues, she sang them with conviction. Lizzie Miles died of a heart attack on March 17, 1963.
Nothing But the Blues The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York