Speckled Red

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Speckled Red
Birth name Rufus Perryman
Born (1892-10-23)October 23, 1892
Hampton, Georgia, United States
Died January 2, 1973(1973-01-02) (aged 80)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Genres Blues, boogie-woogie[1]
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1920s–1960s

Speckled Red (October 23, 1892 - January 2, 1973),[2] born Rufus Perryman in Hampton, Georgia, was an American blues and boogie-woogie piano player and singer[1] noted for his recordings of "The Dirty Dozens", exchanges of insults and vulgar remarks that have long been a part of African American folklore.

"I want all you women to fall in line"
"And shake yo shimmy like i'm shakin' mine"
"You shake yo shimmy and you shake it fast"
"If you can't shake the shimmy, shake yo' yas yas yas"
"You a dirty mistreater, a robber and a cheater"
"Stick you in a dozens and yo pappy is yo cousin"
"And yo mama do the lawdylawd"

Although the lyrics were sung rather than spoken, with its elaborate word play and earthy subject matter, "The Dirty Dozens" is considered in some respects an ancestor to rap music.

Life and career[edit]

Speckled Red was the older brother of Piano Red, their nicknames derived from both men being albinos.[3] The brothers were separated by almost a generation and never recorded together. Speckled Red and Piano Red both played in a raucous good time barrelhouse boogie-woogie style, although the elder Speckled Red played slow blues more often. Both recorded versions of "The Right String (But the Wrong Yo-Yo)", Speckled Red first in 1930, and the younger scored a big hit with the song 20-years later.

Prior to his birth the family had moved for brief periods to Detroit, Michigan, then Atlanta, Georgia after his father violated Jim Crow laws, before settling in Hampton, Georgia. The family itself, consisting of Perryman and 7 brothers and sisters, had little musical background, though Speckled Red was a self-taught piano player[4] (influenced primarily by his idol Fishtail, along with Charlie Spand, James Hemingway and William Ezell, and inspired at his earliest point by Paul Seminole in a movie theatre) and also learned the organ at his local church.[5]

By his mid-teens he was already playing house parties and juke joints, and moved back to Detroit in his mid-20s to play anywhere he could, including nightclubs and brothels, and was noticed by a Brunswick Records talent scout just before he left for Memphis, Tennessee, where he was located by Jim Jackson.[6] It was here where he cut his first recording sessions, resulting in two classics for Brunswick in "Wilkins Street Stomp" and the hit “The Dirty Dozens”. The following year, 1930, he recorded again, this time in Chicago, Illinois, resulting in most notably “The Dirty Dozens No. 2,” which was not nearly as successful and the pianist was without a contract or label and again playing making the rounds at Memphis venues and St. Louis bars.

His 1938 session work in Aurora, Illinois with slide guitar player Robert Nighthawk and mandolinist Willie Hatcher for Bluebird Records was steady and long but also unsuccessful, and sometime after during the 1940s moved back to St. Louis and continued his career of playing taverns, as well working the public produce market doing manual labor until the servicemen returned home to heavy lifting jobs.

Revival and death[edit]

Charlie O'Brien, a St. Louis policeman and something of a blues aficionado who applied many of his professional investigative methods to track down old bluesmen during the 1950s, "rediscovered" Speckled Red on December 14, 1954, who subsequently was signed to Delmark Records as their first blues artist. He experienced a small revival of interest in his music during the late 1950s and 1960s, his abilities still considerable, and worked around the St. Louis-area jazz scene, regularly as the intermission pianist for the Dixie Stompers, performing concerts with Dixie Mantinee and the St. Louis Jazz Club, played the Goldenrod Showboat, and played the University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1961, went to Dayton, Ohio, with Gene Mayl's Dixieland Rhythm Kings, and toured Europe in 1959 with Chris Barber. Several recordings were made in 1956 and 1957 for Tone, Delmark, Folkways, and Storyville record labels.

His age, however, had become a factor, and the remainder of the 1960s saw scattered performances. He died on January 2, 1973, of cancer in St. Louis, at the age of 80.[7]



  1. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  2. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 44. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  3. ^ "MusicWeb Encyclopaedia of Popular Music – Speckled Red". MusicWeb. 2005. Archived from the original on October 23, 2005. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  4. ^ "Piano Red". Leanlink.emory.edu. Archived from the original on July 6, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  5. ^ "Piano Red". Artistdirect.com. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  6. ^ "Speckled Red – The Dirty Dozens". Delmar.com. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  7. ^ "The Dead Rock Stars Club - The 1970s". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 

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