Cox, Ida (1896–1967)

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Cox, Ida (1896–1967)

American blues singer, known as the "Queen without a Crown," whose unusually long recording career lasted from 1923 to 1940 and was revived in 1961. Name variations: Velma Bradley; Kate Lewis; Julia Powers; Julius Powers; Jane Smith. Born Ida Prather in Toccoa, Georgia, on February 25, 1896 (some sources cite 1889); died on November 10, 1967, in Knoxville, Tennessee; married Adler Cox of Florida Blossoms Minstrel Show in the 1920s; married Jesse Crump (a singer-pianist, in the 1920s and 1930s); reportedly married a third time; children: one.

Ida Cox launched her career by touring with her own tent show in the South. In 1923, she began recording for Paramount, becoming one of the most successful blues recording artists in America. Her "Rambling Blues"—made with her second husband, Jesse Crump, at the piano and Tommy Lanier playing the coronet—is an archetypal blues. Its musical form is standard as is its state of mind:

Early this morning the blues came walkin' in my room,
I said, "Blues, please tell me what you're doin' makin' me feel so blue."

Although she specialized in blues, not all the songs she sang were of this genre. "I've Got the Blues for Rampart Street," for example, is actually a ragtime-Dixieland piece. In 1939, John Hammond brought Ida Cox to New York for the legendary concert From Spirituals to Swing. She made several more recordings at that time. In 1945, she suffered from a stroke and returned to Knoxville in 1949. Cox came out of retirement in 1961 to record once more. She wrote many songs that have been preserved on recordings.


Harris, Sheldon. Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers. New Rochelle, NY: Random House, 1987.

Herzhaft, Gérard. Encyclopedia of the Blues. Trans. by Brigitte Debord. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1992.

Tirro, Frank. Jazz: A History. NY: W.W. Norton, 1993.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia