Portia Grainger

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To the general public, a songwriter is someone who sits down and writes a song, or perhaps does it standing up, the position Duke Ellington was said to have been in when inventing the "Sophisticated Lady."…
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To the general public, a songwriter is someone who sits down and writes a song, or perhaps does it standing up, the position Duke Ellington was said to have been in when inventing the "Sophisticated Lady." To the publishing industry, who no doubt have more stake in the matter, a songwriter is anyone whose name is printed on the credits. In the case of the musical address entitled "Wylie Avenue Blues," that name is sometimes Portia Grainger. The daughter of famed '20s and '30s keyboardist and composer Porter Grainger, this is a person with a songwriting credit and not an actual composer of songs. Her status is worth mentioning as the result of a phenomenon many cynics seem to believe does not exist in the music business: an act of kindness.

In some cases, famous performers, publishers, or others with the necessary power, have given certain people songwriting credits as a kind of gift that keeps on giving. One of the most famous examples is vintage rocker Little Richard crediting the minister who adopted him as an orphan, Enotris Johnson, with several rock & roll standards including "Long Tall Sally." The widow of country & western legend Jimmie Rodgers helped Texas performer Ernest Tubb in many ways; he paid her back by almost annually allotting her a credit on one of his recorded songs. For Portia Grainger to have been in a similar position, she would have had to have been named a songwriter on one of her father's most famous and oft-recorded ditties, "T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do."

Unfortunately for the Grainger lass, "Wylie Avenue Blues" was only recorded a few times.

To make matters worse, the leader of one of the ensembles that did record the song has wound up credited with writing it instead. Thus, there are appearances of this song on reissues and other collections in which New Orleans jazz bandleader Albert Brunies is listed as the composer, sometimes by himself and sometimes in the company of three others. But according to publishing records, "Wylie Avenue Blues" belonged to the New York City Triangle firm, who registered the title in 1927. Besides Grainger, the other co-writer was Joe Davis, an owner of Triangle. However Brunies wound up being credited may have had something to do with the perception that Davis himself was stealing many songs -- he was a pioneer in the practice of publishing traditional songs under strange names such as E.V. Body. Davis made up for this bad karma by shifting the publishing credit to Grainger's daughter when renewing the copyright on the song in the '50s. By then, Porter Grainger was dead; many other publishers would have simply dropped his name completely and very few would take the trouble to transfer royalties to a daughter. The decade of activity listed for this artist relates to when the song was written; in terms of her ability to collect, that could conceivably go on forever.