Blues Collector: Bessie Tucker

Released: 1955

VALUE: £10–25/o:p

This must be one of the least commercial blues records ever to have been issued in the UK. Bessie Tucker, a singer from Texas, recorded in 1928– 29, invariably accompanied by a pianist, KD Johnson. Her voice moves over the contours of her blues in unhurried “country time”, like Texas Alexander.

RCA in the US had put out a 10-inch LP with four tracks each by Tucker and another Dallas singer, Ida May Mack. Presumably it was this that stirred HMV, RCA’s UK licensee, into releasing Tucker’s songs, but they can’t have had high hopes of sales, as they didn’t give the disc a conventional EP sleeve with notes – not that anyone would have known anything about her to put in them – but slipped it into a generic one.

Poor though sales were, this record is not impossible to find. If you can take them, Tucker’s blues are mesmerising – grainy, tough-minded songs of deceit, desertion and violence.

In Penitentiary Blues she contemplates killing an uncaring man, while in Got Cut All To Pieces she threatens the woman who has stolen her lover. Fryin’ Pan Skillet Blues begins more cheerfully, with a cry of ‘Bring me some black-eyed peas!’, but she is in the kitchen to entice a man to sample her cooking. And Fort Worth And Denver Blues is a Texas train blues underscored by a piano part full of lonesomeness and impermanence./o:p