Bay Area African American Women in Music: Blues “Gave Me the Experience to Stand Fast for the Master,” said Lillian Glenn

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“I’ve got the meanest feelin’ I ever had. The man I got treated me so bad…I’m gettin’ mighty tired the way my daddy’s doggin’ me,” Lillian Glenn wailed in a robust contralto on “Doggin’ Me Blues” during her first session for Columbia Records in Dallas in 1927.

 

The 78 RPM record sold so well that the company recorded 10 more over the next two years, helping to establish the Kaufman, Texas-born singer as a star on the African American vaudeville circuit.

 

 

Yet, Glenn began having qualms about the type of tunes she was singing, some of them laced with sexual innuendo.

 

 

One Sunday evening in April 1929 at the 81 Theater in Atlanta, as the star of a traveling show, she had second thoughts while making her entrance as the orchestra played “Doggin’ Me Blues.”

 

 

“I walked out on the stage that night, but my mind wasn’t there,” she told this writer in 1979 while sitting in the living room of her North Oakland home. “I was working, making good money, but I didn’t like what I saw. I knew I couldn’t serve God and be where I was.”

 

 

Glenn recalled seeing men in her audiences get into a fight over one man seeing the other’s wife, or trying to. “I’d be singing and see all this going on. I’d say, ‘My God, I got to leave here. I don’t belong in this mess,’” she said.

 

 

She recalled standing on the 81 Theater stage silently for a few moments, missing her cue. She then kicked off her glittering rhinestone shoes and began tearing up the black velvet cape that she wore over her rhinestone-dotted blue chiffon dress.

 

 

“I got to the steps and walked down,” she continued. “The people were grabbing me by the arm, but I kept running till I got out the front door ‘cause God had spoken to me. He told me to get out of this place and go back home to my mama.”

 

 

After returning to Dallas, Glenn worked in a hotel and sang in churches during the Depression. During World War II, she moved to Oakland where she married Rev. H.R. Smith of Temple of Truth Baptist Church in West Oakland.

 

 

Glenn could be heard singing on remote broadcasts from the church on KWBR (later known as KDIA) for over a decade and on KEST twice a week as late as 1979.

 

 

Glenn, whose dates of birth and death are unknown, said she did not regret having once sung the blues for a living.

 

 

“I’m so glad I came through there,” she said. “It gave me the experience to stand fast for the Master. Can’t nothin’ shake me now.”

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