Lottie Kimbrough: The Kansas City Butterball

Another post in celebration of Black History Month.

Today we celebrate classic blues singer Lottie Kimbrough. Lottie is one of those wonderfully elusive figures that were still possible in the early 20th century. She used almost a dozen different names personally and professionally, among them Lottie Kimborough (slightly different spelling), Lottie Beaman (her married name), Lottie Brown, Lottie Emerson, Lottie Mitchell, Lena Kimbrough, Clara Cary, Jennie Brooks, Mae Moran, and Martha Jackson. At least two different years (1893, 1900) are used for her birth. No one knows when she died. And while she was closely associated with Kansas City, Missouri she may have been born in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

The only time in her life where anything seems to be relatively firmly known is the period of her time, roughly the decade of the 1920s. During that time, she performed in nightclubs and speakeasies in Kansas City, and toured the black vaudeville circuits with her brother Sylvester. And from 1924 through 1929, she made recordings. Her best known songs include the oft-covered “Rolling Log Blues”, as well as “Goin’ Away Blues”, “Lost Lover Blues” and “Wayward Girl Blues”. Her manager and collaborator Winston Holmes appears with her on many of the records, providing vocalizations that include yodeling, bird calls and train whistles.