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Ishman Bracey

Ishman Bracey

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Ishman Bracey was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

 singer and guitarist
A guitarist is a musician who plays the guitar. Guitarists may play a variety of instruments such as classical guitars, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and bass guitars. Some guitarists accompany themselves on the guitar while singing.- Versatility :The guitarist controls an extremely...

 from Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

, considered one of the most important early delta blues
Delta blues
The Delta blues is one of the earliest styles of blues music. It originated in the Mississippi Delta, a region of the United States that stretches from Memphis, Tennessee in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi in the south, Helena, Arkansas in the west to the Yazoo River on the east. The...

 performers. With Tommy Johnson, he was the center of a small Jackson
Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson is the capital and the most populous city of the US state of Mississippi. It is one of two county seats of Hinds County ,. The population of the city declined from 184,256 at the 2000 census to 173,514 at the 2010 census...

, Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 group of blues musicians in the 1920s. His name is incorrectly spelled "Ishmon" in some sources and on some records
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...



Bracey was born in Byram, Mississippi
Byram, Mississippi
Byram is a city in Hinds County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 7,386 at the 2000 census, at which time it was a census-designated place . It is part of the Jackson Metropolitan Statistical Area. It was incorporated for a second time in its history on June 16, 2009.-History:Byram...

, and started playing at local dances and parties around 1917. He also worked as a waterboy on the Illinois Central Railroad
Illinois Central Railroad
The Illinois Central Railroad , sometimes called the Main Line of Mid-America, is a railroad in the central United States, with its primary routes connecting Chicago, Illinois with New Orleans, Louisiana and Birmingham, Alabama. A line also connected Chicago with Sioux City, Iowa...

. He first recorded in Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers....

 in 1928 for the Victor label, with Charlie McCoy
Papa Charlie McCoy
Charles "Papa Charlie" McCoy was an African American delta blues musician and songwriter.-Career:Born in Jackson, Mississippi, McCoy was best known by the nickname 'Papa Charlie'. He became one of the major blues accompanists of his time...

 on second guitar, recording two sessions in February and August that year.

At that time his style had not fully formed and his performances varied considerably, probably in his attempts to become more commercially successful. Bracey's blues "Saturday Blues" and "Left Alone Blues", used interesting variations in the usual three line verse form. Bracey was one of the few Mississippi bluesmen who sang with a nasal tone without embellishment. In "Saturday Blues" he used one of the conventional infidelity themes, but he changed the form of the verses to fit a newer melodic concept. His lyrics loosen up enough to sing about skin creams and powder advertised as being able to lighten dark skin.

When he recorded in 1930 his voice had darkened and he tried to use a falsetto voice in "Woman Woman Blues" with an octave leap in the second line, but the effect was clumsy and unsteady.

He recorded again in 1931 for Paramount Records
Paramount Records
Paramount Records was an American record label, best known for its recordings of African-American jazz and blues in the 1920s and early 1930s, including such artists as Ma Rainey and Blind Lemon Jefferson.-Early years:...

 with a group called the New Orleans Nehi Boys, which included guitarist Charles Taylor. Bracey's total recorded output is only 16 songs, and original copies of his 78-rpm records are among the most valued items sought by blues collectors. "Trouble Hearted Blues" and "Left Alone Blues" are his best known songs.

He was an associate of Tommy Johnson, and the pair performed together in medicine show
Medicine show
Medicine shows were traveling horse and wagon teams which peddled "miracle cure" medications and other products between various entertainment acts. Their precise origins unknown, medicine shows were common in the 19th century United States...

s in the 1930s. By the time he was "rediscovered" in the late 1950s, he had become a preacher and a performer of religious songs, and was uninterested in recording or discussing his time as a blues performer. However, he did help in the rediscovery of his contemporary Skip James
Skip James
Nehemiah Curtis "Skip" James was an American Delta blues singer, guitarist, pianist and songwriter, born in Bentonia, Mississippi, died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania....


External links

  • [ Biography] at Allmusic website
    A website, also written as Web site, web site, or simply site, is a collection of related web pages containing images, videos or other digital assets. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network through an Internet...

  • Illustrated Ishman Bracey discography