Lucille Bogan was born Lucille Anderson in Amory, Mississippi on 1 April 1897. In 1923 Lucille recorded for the first time in Atlanta, Georgia. Perhaps the public was not yet ready for the young Lucille with future legends like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith still reigning as queens. Lucille Bogan returned in 1927 under the pseudonym of "Bessie Jackson." The pseudonym seemed to get her some notice due to the popularity of Bessie Smith. Lucille bogan wrote and arranged many of her popular songs which covered every theme from sex, prostitution, Alcoholism, drug addiction, lesbianism and yes…more sex! The question most often asked about Lucille Bogan was if she really lived the lascivious lifestyle portrayed in her music?
Rumor has it she came by her material through her associations with the Birmingham, Alabama underworld. It’s also rumored that in 1927 she was having an affair with her piano man, Will Ezell while she was still married to Nazareth Lee Bogan Sr. [Lucille's husband of 11 years at the time]. There were songs like, Barbecue Bess [no relation] (1935) where Lucille sang about a sign on her door stating, "Barbecue for Sale" and she wasn’t talking about the kind of barbeque you eat with cole slaw on a bun. There were other songs like Groceries on the Shelf (1933) and Stew Meat Blues (1935) which also carried the theme of prostitution.
Songs with lesbian themes included, B.D. Woman's Blues and the forthright Women Won’t Need No Men. Her true sexual preference was never truly revealed and this is how she wanted it. One of Lucille Bogan’s most popular songs was the risqué hit, Shave ‘Em Dry (1935):
“…Grind me honey and shave me dry,
And when you hear me holler baby,
want you to shave it dry…
Oh, daddy shave me dry,
And I'll give you somethin' baby,
swear it'll make you cry."
Honestly, I didn’t have the guts to post the most explicit parts of the song. Check it out for yourself. Shave ‘Em Dry stands as the most sexually explicit recording that is as old as the Blues itself. Yes, this would make her the queen of “nasty.” Well, at least in the 2oth Century. So, Lil’ Kim , 2 Live Crew, and all the rest of the artist who thought that they were "As Nasty As They Wanna Be"…think again. However, with all due respect Lucille Bogan was a serious Blues artist who did her research and gave the people what the wanted on a juke joint Saturday night. Hip Hop artist like the Notorious B.I.G. would do the same type of research for some of his more nefarious material some 60 years later. Bogan’s last recordings were done in 1935. She would go on to perform at different venues for years afterwards, but her recording career was no longer. She left the South and moved to Los Angeles in 1948. Unfortunately, she died a couple of months after on August 10, 1948 from Coronary Sclerosis. Lucille Bogan was 51 years old.
Sources and photo credit: wikipedia.com, redhotjazz.com, and deltahaze.com