Estelle Yancey

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Estelle Yancey

Estelle and Jimmy Yancey 1940s
Background information
Birth name Estelle Harris
Also known as Mama Estella Yancey
Born January 1, 1896(1896-01-01)
Origin Cairo, Illinois, USA
Died April 19, 1986(1986-04-19) (aged 90)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Genres Blues, Boogie-woogie
Occupations Vocalist
Years active 1950s – 1980s
Labels Atlantic
Associated acts Jimmy Yancey

Estelle "Mama" Yancey (January 1, 1896–April 19, 1986) was an American blues singer. She was the wife of pianist Jimmy Yancey and recorded often together with her husband.

Life and career[change | change source]

Yancey, born Estelle Harris, grew up in Chicago, where she sang in church choirs and learned how to play the guitar.[1] In 1917, when she was 21, she married Jimmy Yancey. She often sang with him at meetings and house parties in the 1930s and 1940s and performed with him at Carnegie Hall, New York in 1948. Because Jimmy Yancey was a great boogie-woogie/blues piano player, but a poor singer, Estelle recorded frequently with her husband. In 1943, the Yanceys recorded for Session Records, and went back into the studio to record the album Pure Blues for Atlantic Records. The session was just a few months before Jimmy Yancey's death that same year.[2]

Estelle continued to perform and record. Mama Yancey's recordings with other pianists include "South Side Blues" for the Riverside label (1961), some records with Art Hodes for Verve Records in 1965, and Maybe I'll Cry with Erwin Helfer for the Red Beans label in 1983, recorded at age 87.

Estelle Yancey died April 19, 1986 in Chicago, Illinois.

Selected discography[change | change source]

Year Title Genre Label
1943 Pure Blues Blues Atlantic
1952 Jimmy and Mama Yancey: Chicago Piano, Vol. 1. Blues Atlantic
1983 Maybe I'll Cry Blues Evidence

References[change | change source]

  1. Harris, Sheldon. Blues Who's Who (Revised Ed.). New York: Da Capo Press, p. 591, (1994). ISBN 0-306-80155-8
  2. Santelli, Robert. The Big Book of Blues: A Biographical Encyclopedia, page 532, (2001) - ISBN 0140159398

Other websites[change | change source]