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On this date in 1898, Sippie Wallace was born in Plum Bayou, Arkansas. She was a Black blues singer.
Born Beulah Belle Thomas, Wallace was given the name “Sippie” as a child. The daughter of a Baptist deacon, Sippie Wallace sang and played piano in church as a child. Before she was in her teens, she began performing with her pianist brother Hersal Thomas.
After she was married a second time and spent time in New Orleans, her family moved back to Houston and she began working with Madame Dante, a snake dancer in a reptile show. It was around 1917 that she began singing at picnics, parties, dances, and traveling tent shows where she became known as the “Texas Nightingale.”
Wallace wrote most of her own songs. In 1923, she recorded "Shorty George" and "Up the Country Blues" for Okeh Records. She quickly became one of the most popular blues singers in the country, famous for her weighty, rhythm style boasting of Chicago and southwestern influences. Wallace recorded many songs including, "Special Delivery Blues" and "Jack o’ Diamond Blues" (1926), and "I’m a Mighty Tight Woman" (1929).
She became somewhat obscure because of the Great Depression, a time when she focused mainly on church music when she performed in public. From 1929 to 1970, she was the organist of the Leland Baptist Church in Detroit.
She began singing blues again with great response in 1966, thanks to encouragement from blues great Victoria Spivey, and she toured Europe with Bonnie Raitt as well. Sippie Wallace, The Texas Nightingale died in Detroit in 1986.
Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York