She Wolf RIP
Jessie Mae Hemphill , known in the blues world as the She Wolf, passed away last weekend of complications from a perforated ulcer. She was 78 and had been battling ill health for years. She was the granddaughter of blues legend Sid Hemphill (who was a mentor) and made a name for herself with her Hill Country shakin' blues style which she played in tight leopard skin pants, cowboy hat and high heals. Sexy. Bluesman Richard Johnston introduced me and friends John Blaufarb and Mayor Jane Rule Burdine to Jesse Mae after she had been permanently disabled by a stroke, which froze half of her body and put a dead stop to her career. In our meeting, she was all smiles with her little dog constantly in her arms.
David Evans produced her best work (and married her, for that matter...for a short time anyway). The album She Wolf is the finest moment; it is one of the finest examples of Hill Country Blues...with its joyfully monotonous, trance inducing beat and mosquito slide guitar. Jump baby, jump! And it is hard not to love Jesse Mae's calm but driving vocals.
My favorite story of Jesse Mae cannot be told here...it took place immediately following the double funeral of Otha Turner and his daughter Bernice Pratcher, both whom I loved. That was a heavy and tragic day, and Jesse Mae's actions...right in front of the church...took my frown and turned it upside down. Otha would have smiled, that much is true. Come to the Outer Richmond and buy me a drink if you want to hear the tale.