Thursday, April 26, 2007

Savannah Churchill: Sho' Nuff Blues


Savannah Churchill, the original Queen of Rhythm & the sho nuff Blues. Savannah was born in Colfax, Louisiana on August 21, 1920 from Creole parents. Jobs and opportunities were scarce in places like Colfax, Louisiana so the Churchill family joined the African Migration North. The family packed their things and moved to Brooklyn, New York where Savannah would grow up to become a fine young lady. Savannah’s experience started out just like any experience for African American New Yorkers in the 1930’s. This was during America's Great Depression. However, it was business as usual for many of the black immigrants from the Southern United States. Struggle was their life's story and the Blues was their soundtrack.

Savannah married young, but the marriage was cut short when her husband died in a car accident. The tragedy left the 20 year old Savannah with two children to support on her own. Savannah set out to find work and the year was 1941. While many black women of the time would’ve searched for work as a domestic Savannah decided to pursue a career in singing. She felt she had a good chance to make it in the business. Besides, she was young, pretty, and she possessed a beautiful, smoky alto voice. So, Savannah set out and played gigs in different spots around town. Soon people began to know about this Creole sensation from Brooklyn by way of Colfax, LA. By 1942 Savannah had recorded two hit singles with Beacon Records. The songs were the risqué “Fat Meat is Good Meat” and “Two Faced Man.” The success from these songs and the exposure launched Savannah Churchill’s singing career. Her other hits included the songs, “I Want to Be Loved,” “Once There Lived A Fool,” and “Ain'tcha Glad I Love You.”

Savannah enjoyed success throughout the 1940s and '50s singing all over the country including an invitation to sing in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1954. Unfortunately, tragedy would strike a second time. The year was 1956. Savannah was singing on stage one evening when a drunken man fell from a balcony above her. The man’s full weight fell on top of Savannah; this incident, coupled with fate, would end the career of a beautiful and talented singer. Death, however, did not arrive in an instant. According to Savannah Churchill’s granddaughter, Audrey Churchill, Savannah Churchill developed cancer of the esophagus from years of cigarette smoking. She stated:

“While she did suffer for quite some time as a result of the injury from the man falling on her during her performance, she did not die from that injury. My grandmother was a smoker, as were most people during that time, and she developed cancer of her esophogus, which permanently ended any possibilities of singing. The operations for treating the cancer meant she was in and out of the hospital many times over the years. However, later she fell down the stairs and broke her hip, which landed her back into the hopital where she developed pneumonia and died. She was survived by her mother Hazel Roberts, who continued to live in the house well into 1990's.”

Savannah Churchill died on April 19, 1974 at the age of 53. Savannah Churchill, the original Queen of Rhythm & the sho nuff Blues.
Note: To read more about Savannah Churchill's life and family please visit the websites and comments of this post.
Sources and Photo credit: http://www.group-harmony.com/, Audrey Churchill, and Wikipedia.org

23 comments:

Dancewithme2 said...

Hmm. That sounds pretty sad to me. I wonder what her blues would have sounded like had she been able to sing after the accident.
I know nothing of her. Thank you for sharing - now I have to track down some of this sho' nuff stuff. Thanks for the lesson Stephen.

Stephen Bess said...

Dance-
Okay, you got me on this one. This is the sad blues. :)If you click on her name there are photos and videos about her. She was considered quite the Diva in her day. Thank you! Peace~

Crankyputz said...

Wow that's really tragic, and scary,

get zapped said...

What a tragic ending! But, it sounds like, she experienced joy and success through singing. Sorrow and joy are partners... Thank you for bringing Savannah to us, I didn't know much about her. Look forward to more...

Stephen Bess said...

Crankyputz-
Yes, I thought it was tragic also when I read it, but interesting because I'd never heard of her prior to my research.

Getzapped-
Yes, she did more than many people ever dreamed. I don't know how much she suffered during those 18 years, but at least she had a moment to live her dream. I have 2 more women in this series.

Gnightgirl said...

What a story, what a tragedy. I'll have to check her out also.

Stephen Bess said...

Gnight-
Yes, she had a great voice. I hope that her life wasn't as sad as it seemed.

urban butterfly said...

Wow. She was so beautiful and she kinda reminds me of Billie Holiday. I have never heard of her before. I'm going to research her and see if I can sample her music. Thanks for sharing Savannah with us, Stephen! =)

tryphina said...

Wow! How refreshing and tragic at the same time. Her life was "noisy and brief" like a candle in the wind. A very determined woman all the same. Typical African woman. I would love to hear her music.

May her soul rest in peace

Thanx for the enlightenment my brother :)

Love to your from ours

Stephen Bess said...

UB-
Yes, her music is available on Amazon. Thank you. :)

Tryphina-
Great description of her career. I'm not sure if she was conscious of her "typical African woman" status, but perhaps you can see some things that are not necessarily apparent. :)

Stephen Bess said...

Tryphina-
...much love to you and yours as well. Peace~

Nikki Woods said...

Hey Stranger ...

I love this kind of stuff: golden nuggets of OUR history! I am going to peruse her website.

Thanks so much for sharing. I always learn something when I swing through your spot.

All my best!

Stephen Bess said...

Nikki-
Hello Nikki! Yes, it has been a while. I'm happy that you're able to take some good information with you when you visit. I hope all is well. Peace to you and your family. :)

Writer on Board said...

Great snapshot of American music history, Bess. The blues. Yes. Always. I'm gonna get her CD. Thank you.

Michael J. West said...

Mr. Bess, I'm sure you know that I HATE admitting to being ignorant on the subject of music - especially American music - but there's no other way I can think of to STOP being ignorant. So...

What are the sho'nuff blues?

Stephen Bess said...

Alex-
I want to get it too. She has a wonderful voice. Thanks.

MJW-
lol! The "sho'nuff blues" just represents my feelings when I read about this woman's life and how her career ended. I was just trying to be clever with my play on words. :)

black feline said...

great research...u should put all this infor into a coffee table book...i will be the first to palce an order...lol

Stephen Bess said...

BlackFeline-
Now that would be something!:)

Bygbaby said...

Thx for this BLack History Nugget! She went through some thangs.

Bygbaby

Stephen Bess said...

Bygbaby-
Thank you sir.

Anonymous said...

Hi. My name is Audrey Churchill and I am the grand daughter of Savannah Churchill. I just thought I would set the record straight with respect to the end of my grandmother's life. While she did suffer for quite some time as a result of the injury from the man falling on her during her performance, she did not die from that injury. My grandmother was a smoker, as were most people during that time, and she developed cancer of her esophogus, which permanently ended any possibilities of singing. The operations for treating the cancer meant she was in and out of the hospital many times over the years. However, later she fell down the stairs and broke her hip, which landed her back into the hopital where she developed pneumonia and died. She was survived by her mother Hazel Roberts, whoc continued to live in the house well into 1990's. I lived with her between 1984 and 1985. Both of her sons went on to have children. My dad Gregory Churchill had six children with my mom, whom he never took care of and who had to grow up in the Lafayette Gardens projects in Brooklyn, just 4 blocks from Savannah Churchills house. I was 11 years old when my grandmother died and the thing I remember most is how many "fake" people who never cared much about her while she was sick and alive, showed up at the funeral. Even at 11 years old I could see how plastic people in show business could be. My uncle Michael Churchill, sold the house a few years ago and I currently live in the neighborhood

Stephen Bess said...

Ms Churchill-
First, I would like to say that your grandmother was a remarkable and beautiful woman and I am honored that you would take the time to set the record straight by commenting on my blog. I will make the changes with the new information that you've presented. It's priceless because this is information that we can't get from the media or even the Library of Congress. So, for this I am truly grateful. God bless you and have a happy and safe New Year.

Anonymous said...

Stephen:
Sorry I did not check back to read your reply last December. You are quite welcome. I recently attended a one man play about the life of Thelonius Monk, and would like to see more information provided to our children about people who are a part of our history, but whose stories have not been told to our youth. I am happy to contribute whatever I can towards that end.
Regards,
Audrey C. Churchill