Ida Cox (1896-1967)

Ida Cox was a vaudeville performer and a pioneering blues singer who, along with Gertrude "Ma" Rainey and Bessie Smith, founded the female blues genre. Cox was born Ida Prather on February 25, 1896, in Toccoa. She grew up in Cedartown, near Rome, and left home as a teenager to tour with a minstrel revue. Cox excelled at vaudeville singing, but when the popularity of vaudeville shows began to fade, she transformed herself into a formidable blues singer.
In 1923 she made her first blues recordings, "Graveyard Dream Blues" and "Weary Way Blues," for the Paramount label. She met with immediate success and went on to record seventy-eight songs between 1923 and 1929, including "Cemetery Blues," "Handy Man," and her best-known song, "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues." Cox wrote most of the songs that she recorded. As Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey achieved success and popularity, Paramount promoted Cox as the "Uncrowned Queen of the Blues."
Like Smith and Rainey, Cox toured the blues circuit with pianists, including the renowned Jelly Roll Morton. A savvy businesswoman, Cox served as her own manager and producer, and enjoyed a lucrative career.
In 1939 Cox performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City as part of John Hammond's second presentation of From Spirituals to Swing. She sang "Lowdown Dirty Shame" and "'Fore Day Creep" before a sold-out, integrated audience. The historic concert introduced the blues diva to a crowd that was perhaps just beginning to appreciate the artistry and significance of black music.
After suffering a stroke in 1945, Cox lived in Chicago for a brief time before returning to the South in 1949. She lived with her daughter in Knoxville, Tennessee, and with her music career behind her, sang exclusively in her church choir until 1961, when she made one last recording, Blues for Rampart Street, at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The album featured an all-star band that included saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. Cox died on November 10, 1967.
Cox's song "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues" became the signature song for the rhythm-and-blues vocalist Francine Reed. Reed, who has toured with the country/pop musician Lyle Lovett, gives a rousing performance of "Wild Women" on Lovett's 1999 album, Live in Texas.
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Further Reading
Robert M. W. Dixon, John Godrich, and Howard Rye, Blues and Gospel Records, 1890-1943, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1979).
Cite This Article
Freeman, Greg. "Ida Cox (1896-1967)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 13 August 2013. Web. 19 April 2014.
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