Curious how African American classic blues singer Lucille Hegamin (Lucille Nelson, 1894-1970) has been forgotten, when so many of her peers have been remembered, despite the fact that she left behind a substantial recording legacy.
Hegamin was the second African American female to record the blues (after Mamie Smith) and like Smith, sang in a pop style influenced by singers like Annette Henshaw and Ruth Etting as much as the rougher-hewn styles of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, et al. Originally from Macon, Georgia, she toured black vaudeville and minstrelsy with the companies of Leonard Harper and others. She was in Chicago by 1914 performing with the likes of Tony Jackson and Jelly Roll Morton, billed as “The Georgia Peach.”She was one of the first singers to perform W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues”. From 1914 through 1923 she was married to piano player/bandleader Bill Hegamin and fronted his Blue Flame Syncopaters. Starting in 1919 they lived and performed in Harlem. In 1922, Lucille was in the touring production of Sissle and Blake’s Shuffle Along, playing the Florence Mills part. She recorded for such labels as Black Swan and Cameo, including sessions with Clarence Williams in 1926. In the late ’20s and early ’30 she performed at the Lincoln Theatre and in other venues in Harlem and Greater NYC. From 1934, Hegamin retired and became a nurse, emerging after three decades to do some recording during the blues revival in the early ’60s. Here she is with Victoria Spivey from that period:
There are lots of clips of her recordings on Youtube. Check ’em out!
For more on vaudeville history, please check out No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous