Ida Cox


Ida Cox

Ida Cox
Birth name Ida Prather
Born February 25, 1896
Origin ToccoaHabersham County,GeorgiaUnited States
Died November 10, 1967 (aged 71)
KnoxvilleTennessee
Genres Jazzblues
Instruments Vocalist
Years active 1910s–1960

Ida Cox (February 25, 1896 – November 10, 1967)  was an African American singer andvaudeville performer, best known for her blues performances and recordings. She was billed as “The Uncrowned Queen of the Blues”.

Life and career

Cox was born in February, 1896 as Ida Prather in ToccoaHabersham County, Georgia,United States (Toccoa was in Habersham County, not yet Stephens County at the time), the daughter of Lamax and Susie (Knight) Prather, and grew up in Cedartown, Georgia, singing in the local African Methodist Church choir. She left home to tour with travelingminstrel shows, often appearing in blackface into the 1910s; she married fellow minstrel performer Adler Cox.

By 1920, she was appearing as a headline act at the 81 Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia; another headliner at that time was Jelly Roll Morton.

After the success of Mamie Smith‘s pioneering 1920 recording of “Crazy Blues”, record labels realized there was a demand for recordings of race music. The classic female blues era had begun, and would extend through the 1920’s. From 1923 through to 1929, Cox made numerous recordings for Paramount Records, and headlined touring companies, sometimes billed as the “Sepia Mae West”, continuing into the 1930’s.  During the 1920’s, she also managed Ida Cox and Her Raisin’ Cain Company, her own vaudeville troupe. At some point in her career, she played alongside Ibrahim Khalil, a Native American and one of the several jazz musicians of that era who belonged from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

In the early 1930s “Baby Earl Palmer” entered show business as a tap dancer in Cox’s Darktown Scandals Review.

In 1939 she appeared at Café Society Downtown, in New York‘s Greenwich Village, and participated in the historic Carnegie Hall concert, From Spirituals to Swing. That year, she also resumed her recording career with a series of sessions for Vocalion Records and, in 1940, Okeh Records, with groups that at various times included guitarist Charlie Christian, trumpeters Hot Lips Page and Henry “Red” Allen, trombonist J. C. Higginbotham, and Lionel Hampton.

She had spent several years in retirement by 1960, when record producer Chris Albertson persuaded her to make one final recording, an album for Riverside titled Blues For Rampart Street. Her accompanying group comprised Roy EldridgeColeman Hawkins, pianist Sammy Price, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummer Jo Jones. The album featured her revisiting songs from her old repertoire, including “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues  which found a new audience, including such singers as Nancy Harrow and Barbara Dane, who recorded their own versions. Cox referred to the album as her “final statement,” and, indeed, it was. She returned to live with her daughter in KnoxvilleTennessee, where she died of cancer in 1967.

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