Merline Johnson

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Merline Johnson (born c. 1912[1] or 1918,[2] date of death unknown) was an African-American blues singer in the 1930s and 1940s, billed as "The Yas Yas Girl".[1] Yas yas was a euphemism for ass in hokum blues songs, such as Blind Boy Fuller's "Get Yer Yas Yas Out" and Tampa Red's "The Duck's Yas-Yas-Yas".

Little is known of her life. It is generally believed that she was born in Mississippi,[1] though the blues researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc suggest that she may have been born Merline Baker in Callaway County, Missouri.[2] She was reportedly the aunt of the rhythm-and-blues singer LaVern Baker.[1]

Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1937. One early song was "Sold It to the Devil". Over the next four years she recorded over 90 songs, including "Don't You Make Me High", "I'd Rather Be Drunk", and "Love with a Feeling". She recorded a few risqué songs.[3]

Her speciality was a variety of juke joint blues, with songs such as "Drinking My Blues Away" and "I Just Keep on Drinking", delivered in a tough, unlovable voice.[3] She was backed on many of her recordings by top blues and jazz musicians, including Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Blind John Davis, Buster Bennett, and Punch Miller.[1] Her final recordings, not issued at the time, were cut in 1947. Many of her recordings are included on later blues compilations. Details of her later life are unknown.[1]

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  1. ^ a b c d e f "Merline Johnson | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-09-07.
  2. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 140. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  3. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 127. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.