Ada Brown: “Evil Mama Blues”

Ada Brown (1890-1950) was a blues singer who came out of the Kansas City jazz scene, starting out in night clubs and black vaudeville. She was a cousin of the ragtime composer James Scott. In time she toured and recorded with artists like pianist Bennie Moten and bandleader George E. Lee. “Evil Mama Blues” (1926), on which she sang, is thought by some to be the first Kansas City jazz record. Other songs with which she is associated are “Break o’ Day Blues” and “Ill Natural Blues”.

In 1930 Brown appeared in the Broadway show Brown Buddies with Bill Robinson, Shelton Brooks and Adelaide Hall. She appeared in two musical film shorts in 1938, Stars in Stripes and International Rhythms. In 1943 she appeared in the movie Stormy Weather with Fats Waller, singing the tune “That Ain’t Right”. In 1945 she was in the Broadway musical Memphis Bound, Bill Robinson’s last Broadway credit, as well as Ada’s. She died five years later in her native Kansas City. Brown was a founding member of the Negro Actors Guild of America.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.