From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Simpson, Ophelia

According to John Jacob Niles, Ophelia Simpson was the first "shouter" in the Ohio Valley to be accepted and paid. Niles credited shouters' singing as a style of ancient origin, calling it "coon-shouting." It had two distinct styles: sacred shouting and the shouted moaning in blues and ballads. The singing technique had voice-breaks, slides, and high, rasping wails. Ophelia Simpson's shouting was new and novel and most effective when she sang the blues in Dr. Parker's Medicine Show. She was also the cook and helped prepare Parker's tapeworm eradicator. Ophelia Simpson was married to Henry (Dead Dog) Simpson, who worked at the fertilizer factory near Louisville, KY. In the winter of 1898 the Simpsons had a disagreement, and Ophelia killed Henry. While in jail, she wrote the long remembered ballad, Black Alfalfa's Jail-House Shouting Blues. After her release from jail, the name Ophelia Simpson was lost in time. For more see J. J. Niles, "Shout, Coon, Shout!" Musical Quarterly, vol. 16 (1930), pp. 516-521.

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NKAA Source: Black Alfalfa's jail-house shouting blues (song)
NKAA Source: Musical quarterly (periodical)

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“Simpson, Ophelia,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 16, 2024,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 17:51:26