We have a special show this week as Beale Street Caravan pays tribute to one of our perennial favorites, Miss Di Anne Price. We lost Di Anne this past March after a long and courageous fight with cancer. She was a regular on our program and a powerful presence in the Memphis music scene.
In addition, we’ll begin a new series with Poppy Tooker, who will tell us about Food and Blues Music.
About the artist:
Di Anne Price was bringing home a weekly paycheck long before most people even start thinking about getting a job.
At the tender age of about four years old, she was playing the piano, first in church and later in more blues-oriented venues. Within a couple of years, she was making money at it and she recorded a tape at the age of nine. The music of vocalists like Sippie Wallace, Memphis Minnie, and Billie Holiday was calling to her even then.
A native of Memphis, TN, Price grew up to hold a full-time job as a nursing home’s social director, but she always kept a hand in the blues scene, frequently performing at local nightspots with the Uptown All-Stars, her backing band. Price’s parents were both very devoted to music. Her father liked to sing and play the guitar, while her mother was a lyricist. Price and her sisters all played the piano. During her childhood, her mother indulged her when it came to her desire to make music on the piano, going so far as to allow the child to leave her bed in the dark of night if she had a desire to tickle the ivories. Mother and daughter stayed up until dawn many times, playing the piano together. If it was winter and the house was cold, Price would play the piano for hours while wearing her gloves, coat, and scarf. Often, her kittens would sing along with her. It was an unconventional parenting style, but one that evidently worked for Price, considering the mark she grew up to make with her music. Price tried to expand her unconventionality into other areas of her life, sometimes with comical results. When she was still a little girl, Price hid her kittens in her pocketbook and smuggled them into church for choir practice. The kittens escaped, rooted themselves to a space under the lectern, and sang their feline hearts out while the minister tried to give his sermon without blowing a gasket.
During junior high school, she sang with a group known as the Wildcats. One of her later groups was Captain Phil McGee & the Hottennazz. She is featured on Wild Women, a cassette released in 1996 that features several members of her backing band, drummer Tom Lonardo, and saxophonist Jim Spake, as well as Scott Lane. Rounding out her band are the occasional trumpet of Richard Boyington and the bass of Tim Goodwin.