Mixed musical duos and first blues vocals ever published.

“Love your work! Hope you can check out our music video:  
Eva Plays Dead (@EvaPlaysDead), Derby, England, November 11, 2013.

“The historical references in the 1st Blues book are great. Had no idea about most of it.”
 nora j mckiddie (@mckiddie_j), Michigan, USA, November 6, 2013.

BluesMuse42. More
by accident than design, the last two posts featured a fair share of duets. Last
time we had a young Jules Holland and (quite) youthful Dr. John playing a
barrelhouse duet in the fashion of those great 40s boogie woogie duets,

Albert Ammons (1907-1949) & Pete Johnson (1904-1967)

by Albert
Ammons and Pete Johnson, amongst others. 

In the post before that, Ella
FitzGerald sang about cocaine with the Chic Webb Orchestra; and Lonnie Johnson
and Victoria Spivey featured on Dope Head Blues. Links to all three clips are
in the preceding posts should you be interested.
It was the 1927 song by
Lonnie and Victoria, in particular, that got me thinking: why do so few men and
women duet these days? For some strange
reason, one of the rarest acts in popular music now seems to be the male and
female double act. Apart from Sweden’s Roxette, I can’t think of any other
man/woman duo to hit the international big time since The Eurythmics.
it always been like this? There was Ike and Tina Turner and Sonny & Cher in
the 1960s, the

A classic Ike & Tina Turner shot

Carpenters in the 1970s and, perhaps, Ashford & Simpson
through the 60s, 70s and 80s, although A&S were more songwriters for other
artists than full time performers. Of course we’ve had
one off duets like Dolly and Kenny, Diana and Lionel, etc. but since they were
never permanent acts, they can’t count.

to other musical combinations, the mixed twosome doesn’t come along that often.
the first blues ever published with vocals was the mainstay of one of the great
black mixed double acts of the early twentieth century: Baby Seals and Baby

The first blues vocals ever published
The male of the duo was the irrepressible H. Franklin ‘Baby’ Seals from Mobile, Alabama, and Baby
Fisher was Miss Floyd Fisher, a female entertainer also
known as ‘The Doll of Memphis.
And even back then, an African-American newspaper report referred to a
pianist as the “cat on the piano”.
In 1909, in Texas, Seals
Fisher teamed up in Texas
in 1909, performing together as that ‘Klassey, Kooney, Komedy pair’. By 1911, they
had cracked the notoriously difficult black theatres of New

First blues vocal published: in 1912

York and Chicago
and a year later, Baby Seals had his great blues publishing hit, Baby Seal’s
Blues’. Released in August 1912, this was a significant milestone in blues
history being the second blues ever published, the first published blues featuring
vocals and the first published blues by a black composer. The first blues ever published,
incidentally, was the instrumental Dallas Blues, released in Oklahoma City in March
1912 by the prodigy of German immigrants, Hart Wand. You might have heard of
blues published before then but they were songs with blues in the titles published
as ragtimes. (You can find much more about this in the second volume of How
Blues Evolved, available on Amazon.) Dallas Blues is generally considered the
first tune written and published as an actual blues.

But back to the second blues ever published. Between1912
and 1914, Baby Seal’s Blues’ was
the biggest thing on the South’s black vaudeville circuit. Tellingly, the sheet
music instructed the musicians to play the tune very slowly, just as Hart
Wand’s sheet music had six months’ earlier.
   Black vaudeville artists who performed Baby Seal’s Blues on stage around
1913 included mixed double act Daddy Jenkins and Little Creole Pet with Pet’s
fellow Creole, Jelly Roll Morton, backing them on piano. For your interest, the
lyrics of Baby Seal’s Blues are printed here. It’s interesting to see the first
line of the first blues published goes, “Woke up this morning, ‘bout half part
four, someone knocking on my door,” I think we’ve all heard similar lyrics to that countless times over the years.
Baby Seals Blues (1912)
Words and music by Baby F. Seals
Arranged by Artie Matthews
Woke up this morning ’bout half
past four, somebody knocking at my door
I went out to see what it was about, they told me my honey gal was gone
I said, Bub that’s bad news, so sing for me them blues
(She) Honey baby, mama do, she do, she double-do love you
(Spoken: YEAH HOO)
I love you baby don’t care what you do
(Spoken: SUEY)
(He) Oh sing’em sing’em sing them blues, ‘cos they cert’ly sound good to me
I got the blues, can’t be satisfied
today, I got’em bad, want to lay down and die
I’ve been in love these last three weeks, and it cert’ly is a misery
There ain’t but one thing I wish was right, I wish my honey babe was here
(She) Honey babe, mama’s coming back to you
(He) Come on babe, oh sing ’em, sing ’em, sing them blues
‘Cause they cert’ly sound good to
Honey babe, pops ain’t mad with you today,
 I love you brown skin, don’t care what you do
Oh my baby told me just yesterday, she’d take her trunk and move away
I said, hon, I know what it is about. I know babe you just want to put me out
Now babe I’ll go insane, oh listen while I sing
(She) Honey baby, mama do she do she double do love you
(Spoken: YEAH HOO)
I Love you ba-a-be, don’t care what
you do
(Spoken: SUEY)
(He) Oh sing ’em, sing ’em, sing them blues, ’cause they certainly sound good
to me
I’ve been in love these last three weeks, and it cert’ly is a misery
There ain’t but one thing I wish was right, I wish my honey babe was here
(She) Honey babe, mama’s coming back to you
(He) Come on babe, oh sing ’em, sing ’em, sing them blues
‘Cause they certainly sound good to me.”
Baby Seals’ first
publishing success, incidentally, was a ragtime number about a dice game called
Shake, Rattle and Roll, released in 1910. Title sound familiar?
Also touring America were
another mixed double act, Gertrude Pridgett and Will Rainey better

Rainey & Rainey: Assassinators of the

known as Ma
and Pa Rainey. The daughter of two African-American minstrel troupers,
14-year-old Gertrude from Columbus, Georgia, made her debut as a singer and
dancer with the Bunch of Blackberries review around 1900. At 18, she met and
married the dancer, singer and comedian, Will Rainey, and they went on the road
as Ma and Pa Rainey. Gertrude said she first heard what is now called blues in
Missouri around 1902, when a girl started singing in a strange way about a man
who had left her. The song was so haunting that Ma used it in her act with Pa
in their Rabbit Foot Minstrels review with great success. A young star of the
future was also in Ma’s troupe learning the ropes as a dancer: Bessie Smith. From
1914, Gertrude and Will toured as Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the
Blues. What a great name!

Male and Females
continued to tour together during the 1920s, namely Butterbeans and Susie and the first blues guitarist
ever recorded, Sylvester Weaver, with vocalist Sarah Martin. See 14 May
archive, “From Russia (and Ukraine) With Love”. Now, there was a mixed double act I’d really like to have seen.


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