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Chirpin' the Blues

Lena Wilson


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Feat. Porter Grainger


This record was produced in New York City on July 2nd 1923 featuring Lena Wilson vocals,
accompanied by Porter Grainger piano.

*"Chirpin' the Blues" was composed by Alberta Hunter.

After spending a couple of years on the TOBA vaudeville circuit touring with her brother Danny and his wife Edith, Lena Wilson settled in New York in 1921 and became a successful recording artist. The bulk of her records were made between 1922 and 1924 accompanied by either solo piano or bands including "Perry Bradford's Jazz Phools", "Conaway's Rag Pickers", and "Johnny Dunn's Jazz Hounds." She was also a presence memorable in many 'a Harlem musical revue throughout the '20s. Lena made he final recording in 1931, but continued to perform in New York until the mid-'30s where she died of pneumonia in 1939. In her only known photograph she is wearing a hat and a high-collared fur coat making it difficult to discern the specific details of her actual appearance. -Matt Chauvin

A great side with Lena doing some proto-scatting way before Louis Armstrong recorded "Heebie Jeebies".
I also wonder what Lena looked like; she certainly sounds very pretty here. The song "That Da-da Strain" utilizes a similar wordless vocal effect. Singing "la-la" or any number of other syllables to a given melody has been done for centuries, but it took the creative genius and sense of fun inherent in the lighter moments of Louis Armstrong and all his followers, including later, of course, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and the beboppers, to raise this approach to an art in itself. A great scatter must also be a great musician and hear and reflect the harmonic changes in the underlying material, as well as swing one's posterior off! -Dan Weinstein

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