Madlyn Davis was an American classic
female blues singer. She was active as a recording artist in the late 1920s,
and her best known tracks were 'Kokola Blues' and 'It's Red Hot'. Although
Davis was a contemporary of better known recording artists of the time, such
as Ma Rainey,
Bessie Smith, Clara Smith, Mozelle
Alderson, Victoria Spivey,
Sippie Wallace, and Bertha 'Chippie'
Hill, little is known of the life outside of her music.
Davis made ten recordings in Chicago, Illinois for Paramount Records, with
her first session taking place in June 1927. With accompaniment from the Red
Hot Shakers, who likely included Cassino Simpson on piano, Davis recorded
'Worried Down with the Blues' and 'Climbing Mountain Blues.' 'Hurry Sundown
Blues' and 'Landlady's Footsteps,' were the next in September that year,
followed by another two efforts in November. Her backing trio now
incorporated Richard M. Jones, and 'Kokola Blues' laid part of the
foundations for the more famous song, 'Sweet Home Chicago.' On 'Kokola
Blues', the refrain stated:
And it's hey, hey baby, baby don't you want to go
Back to that eleven light city, back to sweet Kokomo (sic)
The other track laid down at the same session was 'Winter Blues', noteworthy
for Davis' worded extortation to her musicians to 'swing', as they duly
upped the tempo of the song.
In October 1928, Davis had her final recording stint, with her backing
musicians including Georgia Tom Dorsey on piano and
Tampa Red on guitar. The
four songs they recorded were 'Gold Tooth Mama Blues,' 'Death Bell Blues,'
'Too Black Bad,' and 'It's Red Hot.' On the latter she was billed as Red Hot
Shakin' Davis. However, her propensity to up the pace on recordings did not
continue, and Davis potentially missed out on the subsequent musical
developments of swing and rhythm and blues, which may have better suited her
Two alternate versions of 'Worried Down with the Blues', plus her 'Hurry
Sundown Blues,' 'Climbing Mountain Blues,' 'Landlady's Footsteps,' 'Winter
Blues,' and 'Kokola Blues,' were included on the compilation album, Female
Blues Singers, Vol. 5: C/D/E (1921-1928), released in 1997 by Document.