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About Bessie Brown

The woman who threatened to "Put a spider in her dumplin', make her crawl all over the floor," was actually a pretty nice lady, but the consensus on her talent is divided. Perhaps it was poor material she was given by people named Williams. There was her husband, George W. Williams, who oversaw the duo recording enterprise which represents most of her discography. Then there was the famous songwriter Spencer Williams, who wrote the lyrics above, and much more, on one of her most popular records, "Hoodoo Blues." Bessie Brown at least had the advantage here of subject matter near and dear to blues fans, including gris-gris, black cat bones, threatening spells and something that was called "ding 'em dust," although maybe not. Apparently a debate over this substance is one of the hot topics revolving around this particular classic blues singer. "...If anyone can either improve on 'ding 'em dust' or corroborate its existence, so much the better! I'm deducing it from 'ding' as a euphemism for 'damn'," advises one blues scholar who goes on to quote the Dictionary of American Regional English as a source. It does not add much to a biography of Bessie Brown to suggest that "ding 'em dust" might have a connection with "git 'em dust" or "goofer dust" or "Love Potion Number Nine" for that matter, but it hardly seems fair to leave it out.

Sexual tension and innuendo between man and woman was probably even more popular in early blues recordings than hoodoo doodoo, and although Brown and partner Williams exploited the former subject to the max on recording, the results don't seem to please everyone. "The songs sucked and so did their singing but the titles were great," is the opinion of one blues disc jockey. Brown and hubbie were strictly in the tradition of acts such as Butterbeans & Susie, Coot Grant and Sox Wilson, and Bo Diddley and the Duchess. Each record was a sexual battle, and it is indeed hard to come up with better titles than "If You Hit My Dog I'll Kick Your Cat," "When You Go Hunting I'm Goin' Fishin'" and "Ain't Much Good in the Best of Men Now Days." The duo worked on the same vaudeville circuit as a greenhorn Fats Waller. Brown's career on record begins in 1924 and concluded in 1929. Her husband must have wanted the last word in their musical duel, since he arranged a final recording session for himself as a soloist. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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