Performance

Bertha Lee Pate Patton

Bertha Lee Pate Patton, commonly known as Bertha Lee, was an American blues singer from the early 20th century. She was born on June 1, 1900, in Charleston, Mississippi, but moved to Memphis, Tennessee, with her family when she was a child. Bertha Lee started singing in church and eventually began performing at social gatherings and parties. She became known for her powerful voice and her ability to sing both blues and gospel music.

In the early 1920s, Bertha Lee began performing with the Memphis Jug Band, a popular group that played a mix of blues, jazz, and jug music. The band consisted of a variety of instruments, including a jug, a washboard, a kazoo, and a harmonica. Bertha Lee’s strong and soulful voice helped to establish her as a standout performer in the group. Some of the Memphis Jug Band’s most popular recordings featured Bertha Lee, including “Mind Reader Blues” and “Revenue Man Blues.”

Bertha Lee also recorded solos under her own name for the Victor and Vocalion record labels. Her solo recordings showcase her ability to perform a range of blues styles, from slow and soulful ballads to more upbeat, rhythmic songs. Some of her solo recordings include “Mama’s Quittin’ and Leavin’,” “Yellow Dog Blues,” and “Weepin’ Willow Blues.”

Despite her talent and success as a musician, Bertha Lee faced many challenges as a Black woman in the early 20th century. She performed during a time of widespread racial segregation and discrimination, and she often faced discrimination and mistreatment both on and off stage. Additionally, Bertha Lee suffered from health issues throughout her life, and she died of pneumonia on February 22, 1934, at the age of 34.

Despite her relatively short career and life, Bertha Lee’s contributions to the blues genre have continued to be celebrated and appreciated by music historians and enthusiasts. Her soulful voice and powerful performances helped to establish her as a pioneering figure in early blues music.

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