Music History: Ida Cox


Ida Cox, nee Prather, was a Cedartown-raised vaudeville performer who, along with Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, founded the female blues genre. Born in 1888, Ida left home at an early age to pursue her singing career. “Wild women Don’t Have the Blues” is her most popular and covered tune, yet in the 1920’s she recorded nearly 80 songs. She was labeled the Uncrowned Queen of the Blues. Here are a few highlights of her life:

– 1908 Married Adler Cox, a trumpeter for the Florida Orange Blossom Minstrels, who later died during WWI
– 1920 Appeared as the Headline Act at 81 Theatre in Atlanta with pianist Jelly Roll Morton
– 1922 Performance at the Beale Street Palace in Memphis aired on the radio, introducing her to a wider audience
– 1929 & 1930’s The Raisin’ Cain Tent Show toured across the Southeast, to Texas, and on to Chicago
– 1939 Carnegie Hall performance in New York City “From Spirituals to Swing”
– 1945 Discontinued touring due to a stroke and instead settled down and became active in her church in Knoxville, TN
– 1961 Final recording “Blues for Rampart Street” at Radio City Music Hall in New York

Ida Cox was set apart by her ability to manage her own schedule and finances, including the various troupes and acts she collaborated with. She wrote much of her own music, her style heavily influenced by her early career in vaudeville. While there was stiff competition among blues singers of the era, she cut her own path with her individuality and trailblazing spirit.