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Shelia G. Kidd

TYSON, WILLIE (?–?). Willie Tyson, pre-war blues pianist, played in Dallas, Texas. He was part of a group of blues pianists that included K. D. Johnson and Whistlin’ Alex Moore, who accompanied various female blues singers in the 1920s and 1930s. Although practically unknown, Tyson contributed a number of fine accompaniments to several women blues singers, such as Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Ida Mae Mack, and Bessie Tucker, in addition to solo work.

In December 1927 Columbia Records went to Dallas to record Tyson, along with four other musicians—Washington Phillips, Billiken Johnson, Coley Jones, and harmonica player William McCoy—as well as women blues singers Hattie Hudson, Lillian Glinn, and Gertrude Perkins, who were all accompanied by Tyson. On December 6, 1927, Tyson provided a lively accompaniment to Hattie Hudson on “Doggone My Good-Luck Soul” for example. Twenty-one cuts were recorded in six days. In addition to his piano accompaniment, Tyson recorded two piano solos that were never issued, “Roberta Blues” and “Missouri Blues.” These proved to be the only sessions for Tyson, who was most likely a theater pit pianist.

Although little is known about him, Tyson’s small number of recordings provides some of the few examples of Texas barrelhouse blues piano of the 1920s. His work with Billiken Johnson can be found on two tracks on the compilation CD Texas Blues (2001).


Lawrence Cohn, ed., Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians (New York, Abbeville Press, 1993). Bill Wyman, Bill Wyman’s Blues Odyssey: A Journey to Music’s Heart & Soul (London, DK Publishing, 2001). “Let’s Get Loose: Folk and Popular Blues Styles from the Beginnings to the Early 1940s,” Liner Notes, New World Records, 1978 (http://www.newworldrecords.org/liner_notes/80290.pdf), accessed July 16, 2011. Jeff Harris, Email correspondence with Shelia Kidd, January 11, 2009.  

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Shelia G. Kidd, "TYSON, WILLIE ," accessed August 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fty08.

Uploaded on May 29, 2013. Modified on June 11, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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