Born in Charleston, North Carolina in 1905, Bertha ‘Chippie’ Hill would begin her career as a dancer before crossing paths with fellow blues singers Ethel Waters and Ma Rainey on the club circuit.
She settled in Chicago in 1925 and began recording for the Okeh label that same year. Hill’s hauntingly spare 1926 recording of Pratt City Blues features Louis Armstrong on cornet. She would record other tracks with Satchmo and later duets with Lonnie Johnson (the first guitarist to play single string guitar solos) and slide guitarist, Tampa Red.
In a now familiar career pattern to readers of this feature, Chippie retired from music in the 1930s but staged a comeback in 1946 becoming a success on the jazz scene. Unfortunately, her career was cut short when she was knocked down and killed by a car in 1950.
Listen: Bertha 'Chippie' Hill with Louis Armstrong - Pratt City Blues (1926)