The Online Roots of Rock

The Online Roots of Rock
Robert Johnson - I Believe I'll Dust My Broom

Robert Johnson
April 1, 1895 – October 17, 1984

"Ragtime Songbird Deluxe"
— Dreamland Ballroom billing

Alberta Hunter
Alberta Hunter - Black Swan label
Alberta Hunter
Alberta Hunter
LEFT: In 1907, twelve-year-old Alberta Hunter left her family in Memphis to seek work as a singer in Chicago. By 1917 she was a star, and performed regularly at Chicago's top black venue — the Dreamland Ballroom — where she was revered as the "Ragtime Songbird Deluxe." LEFT CENTER: In 1921 she moved to New York City and signed a recording contract with Black Swan records. A year later she was with Paramount and wrote Down Hearted Blues, the song that became a million-seller for Bessie Smith a year later. Hunter recorded for numerous labels through the 1920s with little success. RIGHT CENTER: Hunter was attracted to the stage as her forté was her live performances. She shifted from being a Blues singer to being a polished singer of sophisticated songs. RIGHT: After retiring from music in 1956, Alberta made a remarkable comeback in 1977 at the age of 82. She resumed recording and performing to much acclaim until her death in 1984.

Alberta Hunter
Alberta Hunter was born in 1895 in Memphis, Tennessee.
She left for Chicago in 1907, at the age of 12, to seek work as a singer.
Starting in dives and bordellos, she sang her way up the venue chain so that by 1917 she was performing regularly at the prestigious Dreamland Ballroom, where King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band played.
By 1917 she was a star, and her reputation was such that she toured Europe, performing in Paris and London.
During the 1920s her career flourished as both a singer and songwriter.
She was married briefly, but the marriage was short-lived as Hunter, abused as a child, was a lesbian. She partnered with Lottie Tyler, niece of Bert Williams, for many years.
She signed exclusive contracts, using pseudonyms, with several labels through the 1920s, including Black Swan (1921), Paramount (1922-24), Gennett (1924), Okeh (1925-26), Victor (1927) and Columbia (1929).
In 1921 she left Chicago for New York1 and launched her recording career on the Black Swan label.2
In 1922 she wrote and recorded Down Hearted Blues on the Paramount label, working with pianist Fletcher Henderson. This song was recorded a year later by Bessie Smith on the Columbia label to become Blue's first million-seller.
She recorded several songs with Perry Bradford from 1922 to 1927. Bradford was behind the phenomenal success of Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues recording in 1920.
Although she continued to record, Hunter's forté was live performances.
In 1923 she replaced Bessie Smith in the How Come? musical revue, a move that established her as a star in New York City. She played vaudeville theatres through the 1920s until 1927.
She visited England again in 1927 to work British variety. It's here she was discovered by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein and was hired to perform in their 1928 West End production of Show Boat, with Paul Robeson.
With her success in musical theatre, Hunter shifted from a Blues singer to a polished performer of sophisticated songs.
She continued to perform abroad through the 1930s, in Europe, the Middle East and Russia. She made several recordings while in England in 1934.
During World War II she was part of USO and entertained black American troups in segragated units throughout Asia, the South Pacific Islands and Europe.
In 1956 she retired from singing and became a nurse at New York City's Goldwater Hospital for the next twenty years.4
1n 1977 she returned to singing and continued to record and perform, to great acclaim, until her death in 1984.

* * *

Hunters music drew from Blues, Jazz and Pop. Her Blues was an uptown Blues, compared to the down home Blues of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Her recordings from the 1970s and 1980s lean towards Jazz, and are popular for their double entendre.
Notable recordings include Down Hearted Blues, My Handy Man and My Castle's Rockin'.
Alberta Hunter was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. Her Amtrak Blues album was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2009.

She moved to New York, in part, because there were too many gangland killings in Chicago clubs in 1921. The final straw was when her pianist was accidentally shot and killed on stage.
Black Swan Records, established in 1921, was the first black-owned record label with distribution.
Hunter received only $368 for her million-selling song, as her publisher, Ink Williams, secretly sold the recording rights to Columbia Records in return for Williams receiving Hunter's royalties.
Hunter was 61 when she decided to become a nurse. To downplay her advanced age on the application, she created a high school diploma showing that she was several years younger.

Copyright © 2012 Gary Wilcox Studios Incorporated.
Please credit :
The Online Roots of Rock

.Featured Sites .

Roberta Hunter -  Blues Hall of Fame website
Roberta Hunter - Red Hot Jazz website
Roberta Hunter - Wikipedia
inducted 2011
bio / discography


Click on any link below for more information, or to order online

Alberta Hunter
A Celebration in Blues
Wild Women of Song
Great Gal Composers of the Jazz Era
Alberta Hunter - A Celebration in Blues
Alberta Hunter - Wild Women of Song
Mcgraw Hill
by Frank Taylor with Gerald Cook
comes with CD
Three Handed Media
by Pamela Rose

Click on any link below for more information, or to order online

Her early recordings (1920s — 1940s) . . .

Alberta Hunter
Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order
Alberta Hunter
Beale Street Blues
Alberta Hunter - Complete Recorded Works
Alberta Hunter - Beale Stree Blues
Volume 1 / 22 tracks
Volume 2 / 23 tracks
Volume 3 / 23 tracks
Volume 4 / 38 tracks
also mp3s
1CD / 18 tracks

Her later recordings (1970s — 1980s) . . .

Alberta Hunter
Downhearted Blues
Alberta Hunter
Amtrack Blues
Alberta Hunter - Downhearted Blues cd
Alberta Hunter - Amtrack Blues
Live at the Cookery
Rockbeat Records
1 CD / 18 tracks
also mp3s
Sbme Special Mkts
1 CD / 10 tracks
also mp3s

Alberta Hunter
My Castle's Rockin'
Alberta Hunter
Jazz at the Smithsonian
Alberta Hunter
Jazz Masters Series
Alberta Hunter - My Castle's a Rock dvd
Alberta Hunter - Jazz at the Smithsonian
Alberta Hunter - Jazz Masters Series dvd
V.I.E.W. Video
info / order
Kultur Video
60 minutes
info / order
57 minutes
info / order

.YouTube Videos .
Click here to enjoy Alberta Hunter images and songs
posted on YouTube


Sheet Music
Program pages from 1928 production of
Show Boat
Theatre Royal. London, England
down hearted blues sheet music
showboat program cover
showboat cast with alberta hunter
by Alberta Hunter and Lovie Austin
Program Cover
Alberta Hunter
bottom right

The Online Roots of Rock
The Online Roots of Rock

The Online Roots of Rock
100 Years of Popular Music in America
from a Rock 'n' Roll perspective

Legal Footer

The Online Roots Of Rock and the jukebox logo are trademarks
of Gary Wilcox Studios Incorporated. Contents copyright © 1998-2017
Gary Wilcox Studios Incorporated. All rights reserved.
All photos/artwork/music copyright of
respective copyright owners