Ida Goodson

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In her senior years, Ida Goodson played organ at several churches in Pensacola -- which would have made her father happy, unless it was an example of too little too late. He had been a deacon in the Mt.…
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In her senior years, Ida Goodson played organ at several churches in Pensacola -- which would have made her father happy, unless it was an example of too little too late. He had been a deacon in the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, by reputation a man who took spiritual matters seriously. He had six daughters, all of whom were born near the outset of the 20th century and all of whom were given musical training, including piano and voice lessons, for the express purpose of ringing church halls with gospels and hymns. But, to a gal, not only Ida but Mabel Goodson, Della Goodson, Sadie Goodson, Edna Goodson, and don't forget Wilhemina Goodson, all went for careers in down and dirty, raunchy and rowdy classic blues and New Orleans jazz.

Moreover, several of the deacon's daughters became international symbols for this type of music, a development that might have made him pound the pulpit when still alive and circumnavigate the coffin once he passed on to greater glories. As the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band toured the world between the '60s and '90s, inevitably a Goodson girl was at the keyboards, ready to burst into a barrelhouse blues at the tap of a foot. Wilhemina, shortened to Billie, became known as Billie Pierce upon joining fellow performer De De Pierce in matrimony. Sadie Goodson, who continued performing into her late nineties, married Kid Sheik but resisted any temptation to become "Sadie Sheik."

Record collectors may find Ida Goodson a difficult prospect compared to the other sisters whose recordings remain readily available on the New Orleans jazz market. As for Mabel, Edna, and Della -- forget it. At least that's the attitude of the creators of a 2002 stage show entitled The Goodson Sisters: Pensacola's Greatest Gift to Jazz: they focused solely on Billie Pierce, Ida Goodson, and Sadie Goodson. The only available recording of Ida Goodson was distributed by the Florida Folk Archive and consisted of a 1980 Florida Folk Festival appearance featuring Ida and sister Sadie Goodson in duet.

Then along came a one-hour video entitled Wild Women Don't Have the Blues, attracting much attention as it includes the only existing film of Bessie Smith in action. Several of the other Goodson sisters had worked as accompanists to the great Smith in the '20s, but this video is evidence that Ida Goodson had star potential herself. It was not a status she had actually achieved in her life, instead pursuing a steady background role playing for silent movies and dances. All of the sisters headed for the busier New Orleans music scene during the '20s; Ida Goodson eventually returned to the city of sparkling white beaches, playing steadily at the aforementioned churches as well as in nightclubs in the lively Seville Quarter area.

Her mixture of gospel and secular blues, displayed on video in a brilliant performance of "Precious Lord," is both logical and the practical result of sustained rebellion. Blues music had been banned from her parents' house, so of course the girls would get into it the moment the folks went out, a guard posted at the door. "Whenever we'd see my father or my mother coming back home, the girl be saying, 'There come Mr. Goodson'," she recalled. "And they'd be so close up on us, we'd change the blues, singing 'Jesus keep me near the cross.' After that my mother and father would join us and we'd all get to singing church songs."