Mary Johnson (1900–1970) was an American
classic female blues singer, accordionist and songwriter. Her most noted
tracks were "Dream Daddy Blues" and "Western Union Blues." She wrote a
number of her own tracks including "Barrel House Flat Blues", "Key To The
Mountain Blues" and "Black Men Blues." Johnson variously worked with Peetie
Wheatstraw, Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold and Roosevelt Sykes, and was married to
her fellow blues musician, Lonnie Johnson.
Born Mary Williams, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, United States, she
ultimately recorded twenty two tracks between 1929 and 1936. These comprised
eight songs in 1929, six in 1930, a couple more in 1932, four in 1934, and
her final two recordings in 1936. Over that timespan her accompanists
included Henry Brown, Judson Brown, Roosevelt Sykes, Peetie Wheatstraw, Ike
Rodgers, Tampa Red, Artie Mosby, and Kokomo Arnold.
Prior to her recording career, Johnson relocated to St. Louis, Missouri in
1915, where in her teenage years she worked with several of that time's
leading blues musicians. She married Lonnie Johnson, although their marriage
only lasted from 1925 to 1932. Nevertheless, they had six children. Johnson
worked in the St. Louis area until the mid-1940s. Her song, "Key To The
Mountain Blues", was recorded in 1948 by Jess Thomas as "Mountain Key
By the 1950s, Johnson had long since given up a music career, and
concentrated on her religion and worked in a hospital. In 1960, Johnson was
interviewed by Paul Oliver with extracts in his book, Conversation With The
Blues. Oliver stated "Living with her mother Emma Williams in an apartment
on Biddle Street, St. Louis, Johnson has known considerable poverty for many
Johnson died in 1970.
In 1995, her entire known recordings were released by Document Records on
the compilation album, Complete Works in Chronological Order (1929-1936).