Merline Johnson

Merline Johnson (born c. 1912 or 1918, date of death unknown) was an African-American blues singer in the 1930s and 1940s, billed as The Yas Yas Girl. "Yas yas" was a euphemism for buttocks in hokum blues songs such as Blind Boy Fuller's "Get Yer Yas Yas Out" and Tampa Red's "The Duck's Yas-Yas-Yas".

Little is known of her life. It is generally believed that she was born in Mississippi, though the researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc suggest she may have been born Merline Baker in Callaway County, Missouri. She was the aunt of singer LaVern Baker.

Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1937. One early song was "Sold It to the Devil". Over the next four years she recorded over 90 songs, including "Don't You Make Me High", "I'd Rather Be Drunk", and "Love with a Feeling". She recorded a few risqué songs.

Her speciality was a variety of juke joint blues, with songs such as "Drinking My Blues Away" and "I Just Keep on Drinking", delivered in a tough, unlovable voice. She was accompanied by Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Blind John Davis, Buster Bennett, and Punch Miller. Her final recordings, not issued at the time, were cut in 1947.

Birth and Death Data: Born January 1st, 1920 (Mississippi), Died ? th, ?

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1937

Roles Represented in DAHR: vocalist, composer

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BS-07631 10-in. 5/4/1937 New muddy water blues Merline Johnson ; Eddie Miller Female vocal solo, with piano vocalist, composer  
Victor BS-07632 10-in. 5/4/1937 He roars like a lion Merline Johnson ; Eddie Miller ; Willie Bee Female vocal solo, with guitar, piano, and string bass vocalist, composer  
Victor BS-07633 10-in. 5/4/1937 I'm leavin' you Merline Johnson ; Eddie Miller Female vocal solo, with guitar, piano, and string bass vocalist, composer  
Victor BS-07634 10-in. 5/4/1937 My baby left me Merline Johnson ; Eddie Miller Female vocal solo, with guitar, piano, and string bass vocalist, composer  
Victor BS-07635 10-in. 5/4/1937 Pallet on the floor Merline Johnson Female vocal solo, with guitar, piano, and string bass vocalist, composer  
Victor BS-07636 10-in. 5/4/1937 Mean mistreatin' Daddy Merline Johnson Female vocal solo, with guitar, piano, and string bass vocalist, composer  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Johnson, Merline," accessed June 19, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/106737.

Johnson, Merline. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved June 19, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/106737.

"Johnson, Merline." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 19 June 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/106737

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