All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Jessie Mae Hemphill

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.

Hemphill was born Jessie Mae Graham in Senatobia, Mississippi. Though some sources cite her birth date as 1932 or 1934, the majority agrees that she was born in 1937 on October 18th. Whatever the date, one thing is sure--Hemphill was born with music in her blood. Her father, James Graham, was a blues pianist and her mother, Virgie Lee Graham, was skilled in many instruments, though she did not identify herself as a musician. Hemphill has said that, although her mother was not interested in playing music, her Aunt Rosa was, and she believed that they both inherited their passion for music from Hemphill's maternal grandfather, Sid Hemphill. The elder Hemphill was a well-known leader of fife-and-drum groups and had a successful career that spanned fifty years.

Read more

Tags

Albums

Album She-Wolf by Jessie Mae Hemphill

She-Wolf

Hightone Records
1981

buy

Watch

Similar

Bessie Smith Bessie Smith
voice / vocals
Big Mama Thornton Big Mama Thornton
voice / vocals
Big Bill Broonzy Big Bill Broonzy
guitar, acoustic
Sleepy John Estes Sleepy John Estes
guitar, acoustic
Elizabeth Cotten Elizabeth Cotten
guitar, acoustic
J.B. Lenoir J.B. Lenoir
guitar
Slim Harpo Slim Harpo
guitar
Victoria Spivey Victoria Spivey
voice / vocals
Deborah Coleman Deborah Coleman
guitar, electric
Blind Willie McTell Blind Willie McTell
guitar, 12-string
Etta Baker Etta Baker
guitar, acoustic
Bobby Rush Bobby Rush
voice / vocals
Janiva Magness Janiva Magness
voice / vocals

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.

MUSICSTACK
Rare vinyl LPs and CDs from over 1,000 independent sellers
AMAZON
CDs, Vinyl, Blu-Ray DVDS, Prime membership, Alexa, SONOS and more
HD TRACKS
Specializing in high resolution and CD-quality downloads
CD UNIVERSE
Specializing in music, movies and video games
REVERB
Marketplace for new, used, and vintage instruments and gear

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.