Few can deliver a song quite like Victoria Spivey. Whether it be a song concerned with the circumstances of hard-living or one about the bawdy delights of intercourse, Spivey wrote them with a sly intelligence, hip attitude, and then got them across in her distinctive “tiger moan,” which, in the case of “Toothache Blues,” could make even dental work sound sultry. Born on October 15, 1906, in Houston, Texas, Queen Victoria Spivey’s personal style was honed as a young teenager playing regularly in local bordellos and music halls after her father was killed in an accident and it became financially necessary for her to utilize her musical talents for more than mere entertainment and pocket money. Moving to St. Louis in 1926, Spivey signed to the Okeh label, and recorded her signature hit “Black Snake Blues.” Over the next two years she would record roughly once a month, often accompanied by Jazz greats like Lonnie Johnson, King Oliver, Clarence Williams, and Louis Armstrong.

Moving to Chicago as the record business collapsed along with all other industry during the Depression of the 1930s, Spivey expanded her career by playing vaudeville musical revues, such as the Hellzapoppin’ Revue in New York City, and she even appeared as “Missy Rose” in director King Vidor’s first sound film—and one of the first all-black films by a major studio: Hallelujah!

Retiring from the stage in 1952—becoming an organist for a church in Brooklyn—Spivey would return to her career in the ’50s and ’60s during the folk and blues revival of that era, and she would even set up her own record label. She died at the age of 69 on October 3rd, 1976 in New York City.

The last time Victoria Spivey was featured in these pages it was with the tale of drug-induced delusions of grandeur that is “Dope Head Blues.” That track was recorded in New York City on October 28, 1927 for the Okeh label. Spivey returns today with a side recorded a decade later on March 12, 1937, now for the Vocalion label.

One Hour Mama” is likewise swollen with braggadocio, however, here the listener gets the distinct impression that she is not lying; she is just a woman who knows what she wants, and what she does not. The woman is simply hard to please.

In my mind’s eye, when listening to this song, this is pretty much what I see—

————————————————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

I’ve always heard that haste makes waste

So I believe in taking my time

The highest mountain can’t be raced

It’s something you must slowly climb

I want a slow and easy man

He needn’t ever take the lead

Cause I work on that long time plan

And I ain’t a-looking for no speed

I’m a one hour mama, so no one minute papa

Ain’t the kind of man for me.

Set your alarm clock, papa; one hour that’s proper

Then love me like I want to be

I don’t want no lame excuses ’bout my lovin’ bein’ so good

That you couldn’t wait no longer; now, I hope I’m understood

I’m a one hour mama, so no one minute papa

Ain’t the kind of man for me.

Why don’t want no greenhorned lover, like a rookie goin’ to war

With a load of big artillery, but don’t know what it’s for.

He’s got to bring me reference, with great long pedigree,

And must prove he’s got endurance, or he don’t mean that to me.

I can’t stand no crowin’ rooster, what just hits a lick or two

Action is the only booster of just what my man can do.

I don’t want no imitations, my requirement ain’t no joke,

and I get full indignation for a guy that’s lost his stroke.

I’m a one hour mama, so no one minute papa

Ain’t the kind of man for me.

Set your alarm clock, papa; one hour that’s proper

Then love me like I want to be

Why I may want love for one hour, then decide to make it two

It takes an hour ‘fore I get started, may be three hours ‘fore I’m through

I’m a one hour mama, so no one minute papa

Ain’t the kind of man for me.

——————————————–Bobby Calero


Commire, A. (Ed.) (2002). Spivey, Victoria (1906–1976). Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. pps. 655-657. Detroit: Yorkin Publications. Retrieved February 6th, 2012 from http://go.galegroup.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX2591308746&v=2.1&u=cuny_queens&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w

Spivey, V. (1937). One Hour Mama. [recorded by Victoria Spivey] On Victoria Spivey Volume 4: 1936-1937. [CD] Vocalion. (1937). Document. (2000)

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