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Identifier: IJS-0057

Victoria Spivey papers



  • 1925 - 1940
  • 1961 - 1976

Scope and Contents

The Victoria Spivey Collection consists primarily of songs and photographs of Ms. Spivey with various artists, friends, and family. The collection also contains correspondence and other collected writings, business and personal papers, and some tax papers and financial documents.


8.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use.

Language of Materials



This collection represents blues singer Victoria Spivey with song lyrics and photographs of her alongs side various artists, family, and friends. Also included are other collected writings, correspondence, and some business and personal papers.

Biographical / Historical

Blues singer, Victoria Spivey (October 15, 1906 – October 3, 1976), was an instant hit with her very first recording, "Black Snake Blues," made in St. Louis in 1926 and released by Okeh Records. Born in Houston, Texas, Ms. Spivey grew up in a musical family and was performing publicly as a young girl. From St. Louis she moved to New York where she continued to perform and record. Her accompanists included the likes of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Red Allen, Luis Russell, and Lee Collins. In 1928 she appeared in "Hallelujah," one of the first of the first all African American films by a major studio (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). While pursuing her career as a performer and bandleader, Ms. Spivey also managed, booked, and scouted other talent throughout the 1930s. Throughout the 1940s she performed nationwide with dancer Billy Adams under the management of Joe Glaser before going into semi-retirement in the 1950s. In the 1960s she returned to performing the blues and started her own record label, Spivey Records, with Len Kunstadt. Bob Dylan accompanied Ms. Spivey and Big Joe Williams on harmonica and backup vocals on a 1962 recording for the label. The label also released recordings by Lucille Hegamin, Hannah Sylvester, Buddy Tate, Big Joe Turner, Otis Rush, Otis Spann, Roosevelt Sykes, Sippie Wallace, and Willie Dixon, among others.


The Victoria Spivey Collection is arranged in two series: Series I. Music and Series II. Personal Files. In addition, there is one box of unprocessed materials; please contact archivist for assistance.

Related Materials

Leonard Kunstadt papers and audio recordings (IJS.0135, Institute of Jazz Studies)


The collection was previously entitled "Victoria Spivey Collection (MC057). The collection title was changed to the "Victoria Spivey papers (IJS-0057) in 2021.

Anders Griffen
2013 October
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Part of the Institute of Jazz Studies Repository

185 University Avenue
John Cotton Dana Library
4th Floor
Newark New Jersey 07102 United States