Ida Cox Biography

Ida Prather, 25 February 1896, Toccoa, Georgia, USA, d. 10 November 1967, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. Like many early blues vocalists, Cox’s origins are vague and details of the date and place of her birth vary widely. One of the classic blues singers, Cox began her career as a child, appearing on stage when barely in her teens. She made her first recordings in 1923 and for the rest of the decade recorded extensively for Paramount, often accompanied by Lovie Austin. Cox’s singing style, a brooding, slightly nasal monotone, was less attractive than that of some of her contemporaries, but there was no denying the heartfelt passion with which she imbued the lyrics of her songs, many of which took death as their text. Among her greatest performances were ‘Bone Orchard Blues’, ‘Death Letter Blues’, ‘Black Crepe Blues’, ‘Worn Down Daddy’ and ‘Coffin Blues’ (on which she was accompanied by her husband, organist Jesse Crump). Her accompanying musicians were usually of the highest calibre; in particular, she worked with Tommy Ladnier, whose intense trumpet playing beautifully counterpointed her threatening drone. Cox toured extensively during the 30s but was absent from the recording studios. In 1939 she was invited by John Hammond Jnr. to appear at the Carnegie Hall ‘Spirituals To Swing’ concert, after which she made more records, this time accompanied by several top-flight jazzmen who included Oran ‘Hot Lips’ Page, Edmond Hall, Charlie Christian, Lionel Hampton, Henry ‘Red’ Allen and J.C. Higginbotham. In the early 40s Cox again toured with her own shows, but in 1945 she suffered a stroke and thereafter worked only sporadically. She did, however, make a welcome return to the recording studios in 1961. While these final performances inevitably showed the signs of her advancing years, she was still recognizably Ida Cox, ‘The Blues Queen’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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