Virginia Liston

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Virginia Liston
Born 1890
Died June 1932
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Genres Classic female blues, jazz[1]
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1912–1929
Labels Okeh, Vocalion
Associated acts Clarence Williams, Sam Gray

Virginia Liston (1890 – June 1932) was an American classic female blues and jazz singer. She spent most of her career in black vaudeville.[1] Liston recorded "You Can Dip Your Bread In My Gravy, But You Can't Have None Of My Chops," and "Just Take One Long Last Lingering Look." She worked with her then-husband, Samuel H. Gray, billed as Liston And Liston, and also alongside Clarence Williams. In the latter context, she sang with both the Clarence Williams Blue Five on "You've Got The Right Key, But The Wrong Keyhole," and "Early In The Morning"; and the Clarence Williams Washboard Band on "Cushion Foot Stomp," and "P.D.Q. Blues."[2]


Little detail is known about Liston's childhood.[3] She made her start in show business circa 1912 in either Philadelphia or Washington, D.C.[1][4] In 1920 she was married to a fellow entertainer, Sam Gray, and toured with him as part of a husband and wife act on the T.O.B.A. circuit, billed as Liston and Liston.[3] The billing was unusual, but because Liston was better known than Gray, he took her surname.[4] In January 1924 they recorded one single together.[3] However, by 1925 they had divorced. Liston met Clarence Williams in the early part of the 1920s, and he first recorded with her on Okeh Records in September 1923. Thirty six tracks were released in Liston's name up to 1926, on both Okeh and Vocalion Records. The most noteworthy of those releases were those recorded by Liston and Williams' Blue Five, who in those days included Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet in their number.[1]

By 1927 Liston had made her final recording session. In conjunction with the Clarence Williams Washboard Band, she recorded "Cushion Foot Stomp," and "P.D.Q. Blues".[3] Her song, "You Don't Know My Mind Blues," was credited to the songwriting team of Gray, Liston and Williams.[5] Several of her songs contained sexual innuendo. In 1926, in a song that she wrote herself, Liston opined her "Rolls Royce Papa" had a "bent piston rod."[6]

In 1929 Liston remarried and announced her retirement from show business. She duly relocated to St. Louis, Missouri and worked for her local church.[1]

She died, from causes unknown, in June 1932 in St. Louis.[2] All her recordings have been made available by Document Records (see below).


  • Virginia Liston, Vol. 1: 1923-1924 (2000) - Document
  • Virginia Liston, Vol. 2: 1924-1926 / Lavinia Turner (2000) - Document[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Uncle Dave Lewis. "Virginia Liston | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  2. ^ a b Doc Rock. "The 50s and earlier". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Virginia Liston". Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  4. ^ a b Yarrow, Scott (2008). The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (1st ed.). Milwaukee: Backbeat Books. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-87930-825-4. 
  5. ^ "You Don't Know My Mind Blues - Doc Watson | Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  6. ^ Heitmann, John Alfred (2009). The Automobile and American Life (1st ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc. p. 115. ISBN 0786440139. 
  7. ^ "Virginia Liston | Discography". AllMusic. 2000-09-07. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 

External links[edit]