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Jessie Mae Hemphill

Como, MS 1996

Blues guitarist/singer Jessie Mae Hemphill’s upbringing was steeped in hill country musical traditions taught to her by her grandfather Sid Hemphill, aunt Rosa Lee Hill, and her extended musical family. Few females of Hemphill’s generation pursued the traditionally male role of blues singer/guitarist, largely because of the social strictures and danger associated with the lifestyle. Hemphill, however, always knew how to take care of herself in a hostile world. “My mother carried her gun all the time,” she said. “She was a pistol-packing mama so I’m a pistol packing mama.” Jessie Mae fired her mother’s pistol for the first time at age nine, gunning for an 18-year-old boy whom she thought was her boyfriend as he passed by her house with his 19-year-old girlfriend. “I shot at that boy five times. They were running!  He run off and left his hat. She broke the heel off her shoe. And the only thing that saved them was they were going down a hill and I shot into a bank [of ground].”

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Jessie Mae Hemphill "Married Man Blues"

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