Monday, April 30, 2007

Lucille Bogan

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:,, and


MJW said...

WOW! Usually blues singers of that era would couch the sexuality in metaphors and innuendos, but she doesn't even PRETEND does she?

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thanks, Stephen. You are broadening my knowledge of the Blues.

Anonymous said...

I like Lucille. Never heard of her before reading this post. I like people who dared to be true to themselves, despite popular culture and opinion. I'm sure she went against all social norms and conventions of her time.

You know, I love the blues, I really do. So I enjoy reading about the artists you write about. B.B. King happens to be my all time favorite Blues artist. Gotta love 'em!

Oh yeah, and I finally posted my piece on New Orleans. It's long, so check it out when you have the time! Pics are included! =)

Thanks, Stephen!

Anonymous said...

This is a fabulous post. It's a joy to learn about a powerful woman from way back when. She told it like it was, didn't hold back. Wow!
Much thanks.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Man, she was the truth!:)

Hello. Good to see you. Thanks.

Yes, she was something else. I purchased her cd about a year ago. I've been meaning to blog about it. My wife heard her cd last night and she really liked it in a shocking way. :)
I'll check out your post. Thanks.

Yes she did. I didn't know that people could talk like that back then. :)It goes to show you how so much has changed, but so much has remained the same. Thanks.

`NEFTY said...

It's cool learning about strong women that changed soceity, even with literature:]

Anonymous said...

Wow! She is awesome!

I'm really enjoying these, Stephen. And learning from them.

(I've tried to post a couple times, so if I end up quadruply posting, it's because I like you quadruply.)

Rethabile said...

Fantastic -- I'm going to see if I can find a recording or two. My nastiest babe up to now was Millie Jackson. Thanks for this. Khotso.

black feline said...

wow! she's way ahead of

Fabrizio said...

Ehy! "Barbecue Bess" is an interesting title. Seems to be related to a weekend of Mr. Stephen...

:-D lol


Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, a strong woman indeed and a trail blazer.

Thanks! Good to see you. You are liked and missed quadruply. :)

Yes, Millie Jackson is something else, but this lady...whew! :)Khotso

very much so. People were expressing themselves that way back then, but it wasn't recorded. :)

LOL!! That would make a very interesting weekend! :)

Crankyputz said...

Thank you, your my new learning site for the blues. Interesting that all those years ago, she was singing about such taboo issues, i would love to know what her air play was like....I hadn't heard of her before.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment you and Mrs. Bess left on my blog! I replied to it! =)

Have a good day!

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, Blues and Jazz was the equivalent of Hip-Hop or Rap music in terms of a social construct. She stepped bodly. :)

Thank you for the wonderful photos! :)

Thami Mhlanga said...

I read lyrics to 'shave 'em dry'...WOW, never thought it was done that, time it is interesting

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, Lucille Bogan is the age of my great-grandmother. My grandmother didn't even talk like that! :)Billie Holliday would sneak away as a young girl to listen to Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith. I wonder what she thought of Lucille?

Professor Zero said...

C'est fantastique! I also read lyrics to 'shave it dry' ... and saw that we can get the Bogan CD! :-)

Shai said...

Shave me dry? OK, maybe I am missin something. Was this a code word for sex?

Stephen A. Bess said...

I thought you might appreciate this. :) Thank you.

Click Lucille's name in the post to see the lyrics to "Shave 'Em Dry." It will explain everything. :)

Cergie said...

Lucille is almost Lucie
My true name you know is Lucie = light

Stephen A. Bess said...

I remembered that your name is Lucie. I didn't know that it meant "light." Very nice. :)

NML/Natalie said...

I'm getting an education on this blog. I read about things that I really probably wouldn't get around to. Thanks for sharing. Those lyrics are something else! She was a right saucy thing!

Stephen A. Bess said...

lol! Yes, very saucy! :)Thanks for stopping in. Have a good weekend.

Tafari said...

Thanks for this piece. I just went to & got me some Bessie Jackson mp3's.

I am digging Shave em dry. It is nasty & alright with me.

BTW "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" was the bomb 2 Live Crew album but not as good as 2 Live is What We Are & of course Move Somethin'.

BronzeBuckaroo said...

How I wish it was possible to visit a roaring Juke Joint back in the heyday of the blues. Great post!

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, I remember "Move Somethin'." That was the joint when I was in college. Yeah, the good ol' days.

Yes, it would've been cool to experience the times. I would've love the old Juke Joints until some jealous fool pulled out a knife because his woman smiled at me. :)

Anonymous said...

Actually "shave 'em dry" was the only part of the lyrics I did not understand. It had to be code, who would shave dry? So I asked someone who should know, an old man from a very bluesy part of town. He said he took it literally, shaving as a sex thing. OK, but I still get the feeling there is a meaning I am missing.

Stephen A. Bess said...

It seems like it was some sort of slang term that had a completely different meaning from the literal. Let me know if you find something. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Shave 'em dry is what you call makin' it with a woman; you ain't doin' nothin', just makin' it." Big Bill Broonzy.

As a term "shave 'em dry" appears to have layers of meaning; at one level it refers to mean and aggressive action but as a sexual theme it refers to intercourse without preliminary love-making.

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