Lucille Nelson Hegamin

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Lucille Nelson Hegamin (November 29, 1894 March 1, 1970) was an American singer and entertainer, and a pioneer African American blues recording artist. Life and career Hegamin was born as Lucille Nelson in Macon, Georgia, United States. From an early age she sang in local church choirs. By the age of 15 she was touring the US South with the Leonard Harper Minstrel Stock Company. In 1914 she settled in Chicago, Illinois, where, often billed as 'The Georgia Peach', she worked with Tony Jackson and Jelly Roll Morton before marrying pianist, Bill Hegamin. She later told a biographer: 'I was a cabaret artist in those days, and never had to play theatres, and I sang everything from blues to popular songs, in a jazz style. Lucille Nelson Hegamin

I think I can say without bragging that I made the 'St. Louis Blues' popular in Chicago; this was one of my feature numbers.' Lucille Hegamin's stylistic influences included Annette Hanshaw and Ruth Etting. The Hegamins moved to Los Angeles, California in 1918, then to New York City the following year. Bill Hegamin led his wife's accompanying band, called the Blue Flame Syncopators; Jimmy Wade was a member of this ensemble. In November 1920, Hegamin became the second African American blues singer to record, after Mamie Smith. Hegamin made a series of recordings for the Arto record label through 1922, then a few sides for Black Swan, Lincoln, Paramount and Columbia. From 1922 through late 1926 she recorded for Cameo Records; from this association she was billed as 'The Cameo Girl'. Like Mamie Smith, Hegamin sang in a lighter, more pop-tune influenced style than the rougher rural-style blues singers such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith who became more popular a few years later.

Two of her earliest recordings, 'The Jazz Me Blues' and 'Arkansas Blues' became classic tunes. On January 20, 1922, she competed in a blues singing contest against Daisy Martin, Alice Leslie Carter and Trixie Smith at the Fifteenth Infantry's First Band Concert and Dance in New York City. Hegamin placed second to Smith in the contest, which was held at the Manhattan Casino. In 1926, Hegamin performed in Clarence Williams' Review at the Lincoln Theater in New York, then in various reviews in New York and Atlantic City, New Jersey through 1934. In 1929 she appeared on the radio show 'Negro Achievement Hour' on WABC, New York. In 1932 she recorded for Okeh Records. About 1934 she retired from music as a profession, and worked as a nurse. She came out of retirement to make more records in 1961 and 1962. Lucille Hegamin died in Harlem Hospital in New York on March 1, 1970, and was interred in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York.

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