Virginia Liston

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Virginia Liston
Born c. 1890
Louisiana, United States
Died June 1932 (age about 42)
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 (c. 1890 – June 1932)[2] 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 performed with her then-husband, Samuel H. Gray, billed as Liston and Liston. She also performed with Clarence Williams, singing with 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."[3]


Little is known about Liston's childhood.[4] It is thought that she was born in Louisiana in about 1890.[2] She made her start in show business about 1912 in either Philadelphia or Washington, D.C.[1][5] In 1920 she was married to another entertainer, Sam Gray, and toured with him as a husband-and-wife act on the Theater Owners Bookers Association circuit, billed as Liston and Liston.[4] The billing was unusual, but because Liston was better known than Gray, he took her surname.[5] In January 1924 they recorded one single together.[4] By 1925 they had divorced. Liston met Clarence Williams in the early 1920s. She first recorded with him for Okeh Records in September 1923. Thirty-six tracks were released in Liston's name up to 1926, on Okeh and Vocalion Records. The most noteworthy are those recorded by Liston and Williams's Blue Five, which at that time included Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet.[1]

By 1927 Liston had made her final recording session, singing "Cushion Foot Stomp" and "P.D.Q. Blues" with the Clarence Williams Washboard Band.[4] Her song "You Don't Know My Mind Blues" was credited to the songwriting team of Gray, Liston and Williams.[6] Several of her songs contained sexual innuendo, such as "Rolls Royce Papa", written by Liston and recorded in 1926, in which she sang of a man with a "bent piston rod."[7]

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

She died in June 1932 in St. Louis. The cause of death is unknown.[3]

All her recordings have been issued by Document Records (see below).


  • Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, vol. 1 (1923–1924), Document, 2000
  • Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, vol. 2 (1924–1926), Document, 2000; the album also contains Lavinia Turner, Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order (1921–1922)[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Lewis, Uncle Dave. "Virginia Liston: Biography". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  2. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 513. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  3. ^ a b Doc Rock. "The 50s and Earlier". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  4. ^ a b c d "Virginia Liston". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  5. ^ a b Yarrow, Scott (2008). The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide. Milwaukee: Backbeat Books. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-87930-825-4.
  6. ^ "Doc Watson, 'You Don't Know My Mind Blues'". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  7. ^ Heitmann, John Alfred (2009). The Automobile and American Life. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 115. ISBN 0786440139.
  8. ^ "Virginia Liston: Discography". 2000-09-07. Retrieved 2013-09-29.

External links[edit]