Alberta Hunter (1895-1984)
(2010 INDUCTEE) CONSIDERED THE FIRST LADY BLUES SINGER, HUNTER HAD A LONG CAREER AS A SINGER, A COMPOSER, AND AN ACTRESS. SHE RECORDED FOR GENNETT IN 1924
DONATED IN HONOR OF ALBERTA HUNTER, FEMALE PIONEER WHO SAND “SONGS INSPIRING BROTHERHOOD AND LOVE,” BY THE WOMEN AND MEN SHE INSPIRED
Born in Memphis, Hunter ran away to Chicago when she was 12. She started sneaking into clubs and eventually began singing in some of these places, like the fabled Dreamland Cafe. It was here that Hunter established herself as one of the city’s top blues singers. The Dreamland Cafe drew both an African-American and a white crowd, with patrons like Al Jolson and Bix Beiderbecke as regulars. The nightclubs of Chicago were rough places, though, and after her piano accompanist was killed by a stray bullet one night, Hunter set off for New York. She recorded for Black Swan records in New York with the great Fletcher Henderson accompanying her on piano. After Black Swan was acquired by Paramount, Hunter continued to record for this label into the 20’s. During her stint at Paramount, she also co-wrote and recorded “Down Hearted Blues” which became a huge seller for singer Bessie Smith when she recorded it for Columbia in 1923. Hunter continued performing and recording well into the 1950’s, but when her mother became ill, Hunter went back to school and earned her LPN degree. She was a nurse for 20 years, retiring at the age of 82. Incredibly, she returned to the blues as both a performer and a recording artist, making four albums for Columbia between 1977 and 1984, including the extraordinary Amtrak Blues. We are proud to honor the indelible Alberta Hunter as the first woman inductee into the Starr-Gennett Walk of Fame.
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