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Alberta Hunter (1895-1984), Memphis Jazz and Blues Singer with a Huge Hiatus in Her Seventy-Year Career

The Hersch

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Alberta Hunter was a wonderful jazz and blues singer in the 1910s to 1940s who had, like many black performing artists, more success in Europe than in the US. She made quite a lot of recordings. This one, "You Can't Tell the Difference After Dark," was recorded in 1935 but not released commercially at the time. It surfaced on the compilation of naughty blues and jazz recordings called "Copulatin' Blues," which was released some time in the 1980s and is available today on CD:

This song was broadly suggestive, as were many of the recordings on the compilation. Others were downright filthy, and I encourage you to go out and find them.

In the 1950s, Hunter abandoned her singing career and embarked on a career as a nurse. In the mid-1970s she re-emerged, in her 80s, recording the soundtrack for the offbeat Alan Rudolph film "Remember My Name," whose title song she wrote. (The movie starred Tony Perkins, Geraldine Chaplin, and Alfre Woodard, with whom I had gone to acting school.)

She had an engagement of several years at a Greenwich Village club called The Cookery, where I caught her act sometime in 1977 or 1978. She sang one of her signature tunes, "My Castle's Rockin'," which she sings in this recording from a few years later:

Here's a recording of the same song that I imagine she made in the 1930s:

I loved her.

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