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Austin, Lovie (born Cora Calhoun)

blues chicago theatre musical

Austin, Lovie (born Cora Calhoun), jazz/blues pianist, songwriter; b. Chattanooga, Term., Sept. 19, 1887; d. Chicago, July 10, 1972. Austin is remembered as the leader of a number of significant recording sessions in the early 1920s. She studied music at Roger Williams Univ. in Nashville and at Knoxville Coll. She married very young to a Detroit movie-house owner, then later married a variety artist and accompanied him and his partner in their act, “Austin and Delaney.” Austin toured with Irving Miller’s Blue Babies, then went to N.Y. to play for a Club Alabam show. She toured extensively on the T.O.B.A. circuit, with The Sunflower Girls and leading her Blues Serenaders. As musical director and pianist for the Paramount label, Austin accompanied many of the early blues singers, including Ma Rainey and Alberta Hunter. She settled in Chicago, and for 20 years was musical director for the Monogram Theatre, and later the Gem and Joyland Theatres. During World War II Austin was a security inspector at a defense plant, then later resumed theatre work. She played at Jimmy Payne’s Dancing School at Penthouse Studios, Chicago, for many years, beginning in the late 1940s. Austin’ compositions include “Graveyard Blues,” which was popularized by Bessie Smith in the 1920s.

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