Beulah Bryant

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Claimed by the proud state of Alabama as one of their homegrown talents, Beulah Bryant was born Blooma Bryant and sang in local church groups. She left the state as a teenager, though, relocating to California…
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Claimed by the proud state of Alabama as one of their homegrown talents, Beulah Bryant was born Blooma Bryant and sang in local church groups. She left the state as a teenager, though, relocating to California in 1936 and more or less officially launching her professional career about a decade later by winning an amateur contest held by a network radio show. This victory inspired her to start up her own trio, which worked regularly in California. In the mid-'40s she moved to New York and by 1950 was part of a group of signings pulled off by Joe Davis wearing his hat as an MGM A&R man. The June, Billboard of that year announced that the label had "inked West Coast blues thrush Beulah Bryant." She made some excellent recordings with a group of musicians that had also backed up singers such as Irene Redfield and Millie Bosman, including the fine trombonist Will Bradley and trumpeter Taft Jordan.

Bryant's style was tailored from the same type of musical suits worn by the so-called "blues shouters." She had a strong, authoritative delivery, a sense of rhythm that was like a bass drum pedal come to life, and the advantage of some first-class material created specifically for her by contributors such as singer and writer Irene Higginbotham, most notably the meaty "Fat Mama Blues." As good as these records were, the singer must have supported herself from her gigs or had an additional job, since the payment from the label was almost non-existent; for example, her advance for one session was only $50. Up through the '70s, she kept busy performing in radio, films, and television, as well as keeping up a tireless schedule of personal appearances. She also maintained an exhaustive touring schedule.