Today in 1893, blues singer and vaudeville performer Coot Grant was born Leola Pettigrew in Birmingham, Alabama. “Coot” was short for “Cutie”, Grant’s childhood nickname. By the age of eight, she was performing in vaudeville shows in Atlanta and, by twenty, she had traveled South Africa and Europe with Mayme Remington’s Pickaninnies, one of several similar shows that exoticized African Americans for foreign audiences. She married fellow performer Isaiah Grant in 1913. When he died in 1920, she married Wesley Wilson the same year. In Wilson (whose stage names included Catjuice Charlie, Kid Wilson, and Sox), Coot Grant found her partner in life and on stage, and, together, they wrote over 400 songs, including “Gimme a Pigfoot (and a Bottle of Beer)” and “Throat Cutting Blues.” Billed as Kid & Coot, among other stage names, Wilson played piano while Grant played guitar for audiences across the country. They even appeared in a film with legendary vocalist and activist Paul Robeson. As the popularity of these revues and vaudeville shows began to wane, Grant recorded some country blues records with Blind Blake, and later she and Wilson were enlisted as songwriters for a jazz label.
Here’s to the hard-working women of the blues!