ME & MEMPHIS MINNIE | I could almost say Memphis Minnie was the reason I took up the guitar, she was such a big influence on me (though I had plenty of living inspirations as well). I grew up surrounded by vintage 1930’s acoustic blues. My dad (Neil Harpe) did his own versions of many amazing blues artists, from Mississippi John Hurt to Tommy Johnson, and Geeshie Wiley to Memphis Minnie. I soaked it all in. I tagged along with my dad at events around the Washington DC area, where local luminaries like John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, Warner Williams, John Jackson, Eleanor Ellis, and my dad’s band Franklin, Harpe & Usilton would perform. The songs that stood out to me the most were those of Memphis Minnie, and I immediately fell in love with the “Queen of the Delta Blues”, with her cool delivery, songs of a different era (but from a feminine perspective!), and her obvious talent on the guitar. When I was a teenager, sometimes when I was alone I would try to sing like her, and I would also try to learn her guitar parts (usually simpler versions!). Her songs were so interesting, about life in the 1920’s and 30’s in the south, with great attitude and a sense of humor. Some of my favorites were What’s the Matter with the Mill (Done Broke Down), When the Levee Breaks, Nothin’ in Ramblin, Can I Do It For You, In My Girlish Days, and her classic Me and My Chauffeur Blues – which was one of the earliest songs in my repertoire. In fact, we still play that one as well as Girlish Days in our set today!
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