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When the Levee Breaks by Joe McCoy and Memphis Minne

You’ve got to admire a guy who has so many names.  Especially when they are names like Kansas Joe, the Georgia Pine Boy, Hallelujah Joe, Big Joe, The Mississippi Mudder, MudDauber Joe and Hamfoot Ham.  He was married to Lizzie Douglas.  She was born in Algiers, LA across the river from New Orleans, and at a young age moved with her parents to Walls, Mississippi.  Lizzie soon began performing on street corners in Memphis as Kid Douglas.

Joe and Lizzie became a husband and wife team, discovered when a Columbia record scout heard them singing in a Beale Street barbershop.  Columbia sent them to New York to record and most likely gave them the names Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe.  They were highly popular between 1929 and 1934.  Minnie adapted her style to newer trends in music and had a long career making more than 200 recordings over a 20 year span.

One of Joe's best vocal performances was When the Levee Breaks, written about the Mississippi flood of 1927.  Both he and Minnie play guitar on their recording.

It’s a breezy day as we drive south from Memphis along Highway 61.  A short trip west out of Walls takes us to the levee where a clump of trees in a pasture becomes our temporary studio and helps keep us cool in the warm breeze.  To an audience of grazing cattle Eddie performs, When the Levee Breaks.