If people's surnames were actually based on their life stories, then Jack Gee would have wound up with something different, something stronger, something perhaps not printable in a family newspaper. How an individual would have gotten by in life with such a name would not have mattered to Gee--as the tale is told, he simply sponged off his wife, the famous classic blues singer Bessie Smith. He seems to have been something of a classic slimebag even in the context of the blues scene. In a normal biography of someone named Gee with songwriting credits on blues records, the first move would be to make a joke about his name, then suggest that he didn't have much to do with writing the songs in question other than going out for sandwiches during the studio session.
With Gee, though, it is imperative to get right down to the action, confident that it will more than salvage the second paragraph of any biography. Gee married Bessie Smith in the summer of 1923--prior to this, he has been described as being a "semi-literate night watchman." Some biographies bump this up to a policeman's job, one of the few kindnesses paid to this individual in print. Gee was also involved in managing Smith's career, although the string of disasters she was involved in during their marraige would hardly make any superstar want to hand over a one-third commission. Apparently, however, it would be a mistake to lay the blame on Gee--he was too drunk or too busy womanizing to take responsibility for anything that happened in her career. According to historical records he also beat her repeatedly, suffered several nervous breakdowns, kidnapped their adopted son, Jack Gee, Jr. and ran off with
Smith's niece, another blues singer known as both Ruby Smith and Ruby Walker.
In the late '20s, Gee gee-whizzed his way into three grand worth a production money, supposedly for a new show starring Smith entitled Steamboat Days. As if providing material for a future biopic, he instead squandered the money on yet another singer he was having an affair with, Gertrude Saunders. Smith's tragic life is indeed the meat for a variety of novels, screenplays and stage productions; rest assured Geecomes across as a serious heavy in every single one. One of the only things he can't be blamed for is
making Jack Gee, Jr. live like a prisoner, locked up in a basement--that was done by Gee, Jr.'s biological father who managed to get custody thanks to what was perceived as a severe lack of security in the Smith-Gee household. From the strictly aesthetic sense, Gee more than earned the rights to authoring such depressing titles as "Cold in Hand Blues", especially "Reckless Blues".