April 1, 1895
October 17, 1984
Alberta left her hometown when she was almost 12 years old to pursue her love of singing in Chicago. She held a series of odd jobs and then in 1911, she began singing at a place called Dago Franks
. She performed there until 1913 and then moved on to sing at other venues like the Elite Café and the Dreamland Café. It was at Dreamland where she met other jazz legends like Lil Hardin and Louis Armstrong
. In 1921 she moved to New York where she began recording for the Black Swan label as vocalist of Fletcher Henderson and his Novelty Orchestra
. A year later, Alberta started recording for Paramount.
Aside from being a gifted singer and performer, Alberta was also an excellent songwriter. Bessie Smith's
first hit song, "Downhearted Blues," was penned by Alberta. In 1923, her appearance in the musical “How Come?” was well-received. She recorded with the Original Memphis Five
and Red Onions Jazz Babies before finally releasing her own recordings. In 1927, she traveled to Europe and continued performing there. She also appeared in several productions including the musical Showboat
. She returned to the U.S. after World War II.
Her songs include: "My Handy Man," "My Castles Rockin,"" "Sugar," "Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Morning," I'm Down Right Now But I Won't Be Down Always," "I'll Forgive You 'Cause I Love You," "Lonely Singing Fool" and "Someone Else Will Take Your Place."
In 1978, her song "Remember My Name," which she wrote for the movie with the same title, became a hit. This was followed by 3 more albums under Columbia, most notable of which is Amtrak Blues.
- During World War II and the Korean War, Alberta joined the USO and traveled to entertain the troops.
- In 1956 she decided to retire from singing and studied to become a nurse. She worked as a registered nurse in New York's Goldwater Hospital until her retirement in 1977.
- In 1977, she resumed singing and recording. She performed until her death in 1984.
- In her early recordings, she reportedly used pseudonyms which includes Josephine Beatty, Anna Jones and Alberta Prime.