Madlyn Davis

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Blues singer Madlyn Davis was a powerful contemporary of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alice Moore, Clara Smith, Mozelle Alderson, Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace, and Bertha Chippie Hill. As far as anyone…
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Blues singer Madlyn Davis was a powerful contemporary of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alice Moore, Clara Smith, Mozelle Alderson, Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace, and Bertha Chippie Hill. As far as anyone can tell, she made only ten recordings, all for the Paramount label in Chicago. What distinguished her from many of her peers was a willingness to break out of the "slow drag" formula and tear it up a bit. Unfortunately, only a couple of her records document this tendency. Her first session took place in June 1927. On "Worried Down with the Blues" and "Climbing Mountain Blues," she was accompanied by her Red Hot Shakers, a quartet believed to have included pianist Cassino Simpson. In September, 1927 she recorded "Hurry Sundown Blues" and "Landlady's Footsteps" with a similar group, this time spiked with the sounds of kazoo and slide whistle. In November, 1927 she cut two titles with her Hot Shots, a trio that included Richard M. Jones. "Kokola Blues" uses a formula that would later become popular as "Sweet Home Chicago." The flipside, "Winter Blues", starts out sounding like a Bessie Smith record and erupts into a full-fledged stomp during its final chorus, with Davis egging on her musicians in a manner that echoed Louis Armstrong's joviality and would soon be commonly associated with Fats Waller & His Rhythm. Note that although this record was made in 1927, she clearly uses the word "swing" as she encourages the band to cut loose. This singer's final recording date took place in October, 1928 with pianist Georgia Tom Dorsey and guitarist Tampa Red listed as her Hot Shots. The threesome tossed off "Gold Tooth Mama Blues," "Death Bell Blues," "It's Red Hot," and "Too Black Bad," a song that shares the same title with a different blues by Blind Lemon Jefferson. On "It's Red Hot," she is billed as Red Hot Shakin' Davis, and sounds a lot like Bertha Chippie Hill on Scrapper Blackwell's "Non Skid Tread." It's a crying shame that Madlyn Davis didn't continue making records during the '30s and ‘40s. She would have found herself a niche in the swing and rhythm & blues markets, and maybe today we'd know more about who she was and what kind of a life she led.