Jessie Mae Hemphill

Jesse Mae Hemphill - vocal, guitar, drum tambourine, multi instrumentalist (1940 - 2004)

A regular performer at blues festivals as late as the early 1990s, Jessie Mae Hemphill, outfitted in a sequined hat and shiny purple halter top, stood out onstage for her age as well as her appearance. With a wink in her eye and a gold tooth flashing, Hemphill played guitar, bells attached to her legs, her foot tapping a tambourine. The music of her one-woman band was haunting--familiar, yet new. It drew from the traditions of North Mississippi Delta region--music born of slavery, reared in poverty, and perfected on the farmland. Hemphill played it with her own style, updating classic lyrics with her own words. Her distinctive mix of new and old Delta traditions with day-to-day observations, won Hemphill international acclaim as a blues woman. She, however, was just carrying on the family tradition.

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