Singing the Blues

Joe Pullum was a Texas bluesman with a high pitched singing voice who recorded extensively for Bluebird in 1934 - 1936.Joe Pullum (1905 – 1964) was an American blues singer and songwriter

All information found about him report him as being one of the more obscure blues stars and say little is known about his early life, focusing on his most active period between 1934 and 1936, when he recorded 30 tracks. After this, his radio performance is noted, as is his move to California in 1940 but nothing after 1953 until his death. I have therefore concentrated more on his family life.

He was born on Christmas day 1905 in Alabama, USA as Joseph E Pullum. He was the second of the four children, that survived childhood, of William H Pullum and Dora Florence Pullum nee Ross.

The family moved to Harris county in Houston, Texas before he was 5. He went to school to the level of 4th year high school and age 16, he was a helper at Bennets Drug Store. By his 20s he was working as a Presser in a cleaning shop called Grand Cleaners. This was his stated occupation on the census at least until the year after the release of the song with which he had his major success ” Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?” in 1934.

Tony Russell, a music journalist, wrote that “Pullum’s high clear voice, drifting over the peaks and valleys of “Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?”, brought the shock of the new into mid-1930s blues. No one before, male or female, had sung with such feline grace. What’s more, Pullum’s ethereal manner hardly prepared the listener for the song’s scenario of insults, smoking pistols and suicide”

In the U.S City directory for 1937 then gave his occupation as Musician. However the 1940 United States federal Census, he is with his parents and again his occupation is recorded as Presser in a laundry, having worked 20  hours in previous week and 52 weeks in the previous year. His wages were $720.

By September of that year, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he died on January 7th 1964, aged 58. He was buried in Houston, Texas, probably with his father and descendants at Paradise Cemetery North.

Interestingly, although many websites about Joe Pullum state that little is known about his early life, I have found evidence that he may be the grandson of an influential African American pastor and entrepreneur. However it is possible that his own father was adopted by that minister.


updated 27.04.15




but seems related to – link to bricks, pastor etc.

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