Merline Johnson

Decades: 1980s 1990s 2000s


c.1912, Mississippi, USA. Information on Johnson’s early years is sketchy. She began recording in 1937, and enjoyed a successful recording career for several years, making a large number of records before 1941, accompanied by some of the major blues musicians in Chicago at that time, including Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson and Blind John Davis (sometimes credited as Her Rhythm Rascals). Her vocals were tough and confident, occasionally reminiscent of Memphis Minnie, with an inclination to the sensual as well as the witty. Her nickname, ‘The Yas Yas Girl’ (a rare American instance of rhyming slang) bears out this image. Some of her records, however, had a jazzier orientation. She recorded again at a single session after the war in 1947, but nothing further is known of her.

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