Precious Bryant (1942-2013)

A charismatic country blues singer and fingerstyle guitarist of the Piedmont tradition, Precious Bryant stands out among Georgia's great blueswomen, including Gertrude "Ma" Rainey and Ida Cox. With just a few commercially released recordings to her credit, Bryant attracted much attention in her later years as one of Georgia's few living links to its rich musical roots.
Bryant was born on January 4, 1942, in Talbot County, the third of nine children. As a young girl she sang with her sisters in their Baptist church. Her family was musical, and she learned to play guitar at a very early age, becoming proficient by age nine. Her father then taught her to play bottleneck guitar, and eventually her uncle and mentor, blues musician George Henry Bussey, presented her with an instrument of her own, a Silvertone from Sears and Roebuck. She grew up listening to country blues artists like Muddy Waters, and her cousins played in the Georgia Fife and Drum Band.
Bryant dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade and in 1965 got married. She had one son, Tony, who also became a musician, accompanying his mother on bass. She soon began performing whenever possible, accepting tips in her guitar. Bryant's repertoire evolved from traditional songs to include original arrangements and compositions.
Bryant was first recorded in 1969 by folklorist George Mitchell of Atlanta. Just as southern field recordings in the 1930s and 1940s had led to the discovery of many exceptional musicians, such as blues guitarist Leadbelly at Louisiana's Angola Prison, Mitchell had discovered what he would later describe as a "Georgia musical treasure."
In 1983 Mitchell persuaded Bryant to perform at the Chattahoochee Folk Festival in Columbus. The audience's enthusiastic response reassured Mitchell that his assessment of the blues musician had been accurate. Soon, Bryant began performing at regional, national, and international music festivals and, as her following grew, also began playing in clubs.
Recording for the Atlanta-based label Terminus Records, Bryant released her debut, Fool Me Good (2002), more than thirty years after the Mitchell field recording sessions. The acoustic project includes original material as well as "Broke and Ain't Got a Dime," her interpretation of the "Blind Willie" McTell classic "Last Dime Blues," and an arrangement of the old spiritual standard "When the Saints Go Marching In." Produced by Bryant's manager, Amos Harvey, the eclectic collection of songs was recorded at Zelda Station (in the home of longtime friend and folklorist-author Fred Fussell) in Buena Vista, in Harris County. Fool Me Good garnered Bryant nominations for W. C. Handy Awards in the categories of Acoustic Blues Album of the Year and Best New Artist Debut.
Bryant's second album, The Truth, was released in 2005, and includes covers of the Irma Thomas song "You Can Have My Husband (But Please Don't Mess with My Man)" and the Willie Dixon tune "My Babe." Also in 2005, Music Maker Relief Foundation released the disc My Name Is Precious.
Bryant died on January 12, 2013, in Columbus.
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Further Reading
Andria Lisle, "Precious Bryant: Chattahoochee River Valley Blues," Living Blues (March/April 2005).

Nick Marino, "At Home with the Blues," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 23, 2005.
Cite This Article
Freeman, Greg. "Precious Bryant (1942-2013)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 30 July 2013. Web. 21 October 2014.
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