The great Valaida Snow, jazz queen

Anyone else love–or even know–her? I am just now reading what is probably the only biography of her, and thank goodness I have about 40 of her recordings nestled on my iPod

She was an amazing singer, dancer, trumpet player (and pianist, and violinist) of the 1920s-40s, sometimes called The Female Louis Armstrong, though their styles were very different. She never became as famous as Ethel Waters or Josephine Baker or other black pop/jazz singers, as she didn’t do Broadway (except for some early revues) or movies–she mostly toured, including years in Europe.

Fascinating life, too: plenty of marriages (including one dancer about half her age) and affairs; drugs, theft, and a totally invented stay in a concentration camp.

Look her up on YouTube: I esp. love her renditions (with trumpet solos!) of *I Can’t Dance–I’ve Got Ants in My Pants, I Wish That I Were Twins, *and a red-hot I Must Have That Man.

You mentioned her last month in my April Fool’s cornet thread. I hadn’t been familiar with her so I was grateful for the introduction. I have the two CDs Amazon carries on my wish list now, and I see the book is readily available and absurdly cheap. I’ll def. be buying it.

Yup, I’ve heard Valaida in a few cd sets about American interwar jazz in Europe.

Knowing the period as I do, I’m convinced women could only fit into pop music as novelty acts. That’s why there were all those all-girl bands and almost no *part-*girl bands.

I’ve had her on my iPod all week and have several songs stuck in my head. I wish there was more film of her! Just one Soundie and a brief clip from a 1939 French movie. She never seems to have done any TV. Thank goodness she made so many recordings!

I already knew who she was and actually have a Best Of album, but for others I linked two of the songs you mentioned, with a bonus dance from the Clark Brothers in the wonderful “Ants In My Pants.” Those are my two favorite songs too.

I’ve Got Ants in My Pants
I Wish That I Were Twins
I couldn’t find Valaida’s “I Must Have That Man” on YouTube (but here’s the lovely Annette Hanshaw’s version)

More (folks should keep in mind this is Valaida singing and playing trumpet):

“St Louis Blues”

“You’re Driving Me Crazy”

“Some Of These Days”


“Singing In The Rain”
Here’s a biography segment too. Unfortunately the sound is out of sync but some of the time it doesn’t matter.

When I had a radio show back in the late '80’s I wanted to do a Women in Jazz & Blues show but I had no jazz or blues in my collection, and was only familiar with a few majors like Bessie Smith, The Andrews Sisters, Billie Holiday and a few others. I used to engineer for a firecracker octogenarian named “Old Uncle Bob” aka O-U-B or OUB (pronounced “ooob”) for short. He had a record collection of the gods from the 20’s-60’s and I raided it regularly. I discovered Valaida through him, as well as The Boswell Sisters, Mildred Bailey, Victoria Spivey, Rose Murphy, Lee Morse*, Blanche Calloway (and her Joy Boys! :slight_smile: ), Sippie Wallace, Clara Smith**, Rosetta Tharpe and her amazing electric guitar, Memphis Minnie, the practically forgotten Libby Holman, Lee Wiley, Vanita Symthe, who looked so sweet singing a very dirty song, Lucille Bogan (aka Bessie Jackson) singing a song in 1935 that would make porn stars blush, Rosa Henderson, Mamie Smith, Alberta Hunter singing about race and sex, and so many many many others.
I have to say again, YouTube is one of the greatest inventions in all of humankind.

  • That delightful song, called “T’aint No Sin To Take Off Your Skin And Dance Around In Your Bones” contains the line “No more singin’ in the bathtub with those television phones…” which is practically science fiction, considering the song was written in 1929.

** This great, nasty-sounding (lyrically) song was written by Georgia Tom, aka Thomas Dorsey, who wrote lots of great jazz/blues songs, but then he dropped that lifestyle and became a preacher. A few days after his wife and newborn child died he wrote “Precious Lord” which was made famous by Mahalia Jackson. Dorsey’s a fascinating man, he had great success as a secular writer writing for and touring with legends such as Ma Rainey, then became a legend himself as a gospel music writer. In fact he’s called the father of modern gospel. I’m a pretty hard-core atheist but my all-time favorite documentary is Say Amen, Somebody.

Besides the jokey comment I should have added that this is absolutely NSFW!!! This is not a cutesy little double-entendre song like the song linked before it (“Back Door Man”) it’s raw and crude and very very dirty. And quite wonderful.

Yep, I have a few of her songs on my iPod, which I had gotten from this page on (I’m a big fan of music dating from the 1920s - 1940s, and that site is a great free resource.)

My favorite of those Valaida Snow songs is “You Bring Out the Savage in Me” – very fun song.

Thanks for that. Public Domain is a great thing.

Unfortunately I can’t find Valaida’s version on YouTube. I found this excellent but sadly neglected cover by 2010 Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition winner Cecile McLorin Salvant. That’s way too good to only have 144 Views!

Yes! Possibly the only thing I do not hate about the 21st century. In the olden tymes, I had to try and explain Valaida Snow, or Lyda Roberti, or John Gilbert, or Judy Tyler, to people–now I just send them links!