34 Facts About Alberta Hunter


Alberta Hunter was an American jazz and blues singer and songwriter from the early 1920s to the late 1950s.


Alberta Hunter was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Laura Peterson, who worked as a maid in a Memphis brothel, and Charles Alberta Hunter, a Pullman porter.


Alberta Hunter attended Grant Elementary School, off Auction Street, which she called Auction School, in Memphis.


Alberta Hunter's father left when she was a child, and to support the family her mother worked as a servant in a brothel in Memphis, although she married again in 1906.


Alberta Hunter was not happy with her new family and left for Chicago, Illinois, around the age of 11, in the hopes of becoming a paid singer; she had heard that it paid 10 dollars per week.


Alberta Hunter's mother left Memphis and moved in with her soon afterwards.


Alberta Hunter began her singing career in a bordello and soon moved to clubs that appealed to men, black and white alike.


Alberta Hunter was still in her early teens when she settled in Chicago.


Alberta Hunter then sang at Hugh Hoskin's saloon and, eventually, in many Chicago bars.


Alberta Hunter's first act was in an upstairs room, far from the main event; thus, she began developing as an artist in front of a cabaret crowd.


Alberta Hunter peeled potatoes by day and hounded club owners by night, determined to land a singing job.


Alberta Hunter's persistence paid off, and Hunter began a climb from some of the city's lowest dives to a headlining job at its most prestigious venue for black entertainers, the Dreamland ballroom.


Alberta Hunter had a five-year association with the Dreamland, beginning in 1917, and her salary rose to $35 a week.


Alberta Hunter first toured Europe in 1917, performing in Paris and London.


Alberta Hunter recorded several records with Perry Bradford from 1922 to 1927.


Alberta Hunter wrote "Downhearted Blues" with Lovie Austin and recorded the track for Ink Williams at Paramount Records.


Alberta Hunter learned what Williams had done and stopped recording for him.


In 1928, Alberta Hunter played Queenie opposite Paul Robeson in the first London production of Show Boat at Drury Lane.


Alberta Hunter subsequently performed in nightclubs throughout Europe and appeared for the 1934 winter season with Jack Jackson's society orchestra at the Dorchester, in London.


Alberta Hunter spent the late 1930s fulfilling engagements on both sides of the Atlantic and the early 1940s performing at home.


Alberta Hunter performed with Bricktop and recorded with Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet.


Alberta Hunter continued to perform on both sides of the Atlantic, and as the head of the USO.


Alberta Hunter said that when her mother died in 1957, because they had been partners and were so close, the appeal of performing ended for her.


Alberta Hunter reduced her age, "invented" a high school diploma, and enrolled in nursing school, embarking on a career in health care, in which she worked for 20 years at Roosevelt Island's Goldwater Memorial Hospital.


The hospital forced Alberta Hunter to retire because it believed she was 70 years old.


Alberta Hunter had already made a brief return by performing on two albums in the early 1960s, but now she had a regular engagement at a Greenwich Village club, becoming an attraction there until her death, in October 1984.


Alberta Hunter was still working at Goldwater Memorial Hospital in 1961 when she was persuaded to participate in two recording sessions.


Alberta Hunter's two-week appearance there was a huge success, turning into a six-year engagement and a revival of her career in music.


Alberta Hunter had not previously shown interest in Hunter, but he had been a close associate of Barney Josephson decades earlier, when the latter ran the Cafe Society Uptown and Downtown clubs.


Alberta Hunter had a walk-on role in Remember My Name, a 1978 film by Alan Rudolph, for which producer Robert Altman commissioned her to write and to perform the soundtrack music.


In 1919, Alberta Hunter married Willard Saxby Townsend, a former soldier who later became a labor leader for baggage handlers via the International Brotherhood of Red Caps, but the marriage was short-lived.


Alberta Hunter is buried in the Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York, the location of many celebrity graves.


Rosalind Brown plays the role of Alberta Hunter in Leaving the Blues.


Alberta Hunter was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015.