Ruth Coleman

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"She Walked Right Up" is the title of one of a handful of classic blues songs cut by vocalist Ruth Coleman, if it were only that simple. The question of who actually approached the microphone to sing…
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"She Walked Right Up" is the title of one of a handful of classic blues songs cut by vocalist Ruth Coleman, if it were only that simple. The question of who actually approached the microphone to sing this number, sometimes also known under its full title as "She Walked Right up and Took My Man Away," has sometimes confused blues scholars otherwise known for their immaculate precision regarding such matters. There's a good reason, too. One of Coleman's rivals was a singer named Helen Baxter, one of many female blues singers trying to capture the attention of the first generation of record collectors in the early '20s. Baxter must have liked Coleman's song, because according to recording logs, "She Walked Right Up" and cut a version exactly four days after Coleman had recorded her own. Many artists in this genre made a habit of releasing sides under pseudonyms, sometimes to avoid contract restrictions. In this case, Baxter's decision to release her version under the name of Ellen Coleman clearly was an attempt to confuse the public.

Baxter may have triumphed in this ruse, but only in a small way. She was able to cut about a dozen tracks during her career, whereas Ruth Coleman is known for only three songs, two of which were attempts to cash in on the Charleston dance craze. The "Original Charleston Strut" dates from the same recording session as "She Walked Right Up," both featuring piano accompaniment from session hound Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson on piano. At this point, Coleman was one of four singers signed by producer, publisher, and record label owner Joe Davis in his first serious foray into blues, circa 1923. The others he signed were Josie Miles, Ludie Wells, and Gladys Jordan. Less than two years later, Coleman got another chance to record, this time as a vocalist with Jimmy O'Bryant's Washboard Band, an outfit that was active in the mid-'20s. She is also credited as co-writing "I'm Gonna Get Myself a Real Man" with Baby Grice; the song was recorded in 1924 by Laura Smith, accompanied by Clarence Williams' Harmonizers.