Maggie Jones [Fae Barnes] (1894–1940)

By: James Head

Revised by: Katherine Kuehler Walters

Type: Biography

Published: November 21, 2006

Updated: October 13, 2021


Maggie Jones, pianist, vocalist, lyricist, and blues recording artist, was born in Hillsboro, Texas, in 1894. The daughter of sharecroppers, Pomp and Augusta (Craige or Cragg) Jones, she had at least one brother, Langston J “Lank” Jones, a World War I veteran. In 1900 her mother worked as a cook, and her father was in prison and worked in the convict lease system in Falls County until he received a pardon from Governor Joseph D. Sayers in 1901.

Maggie first sang in church choirs before she moved in 1922 to New York City, where she began to perform in local clubs under the name Fae Barnes. Like Sippie Wallace, she was billed as the "Texas Nightingale" and worked a circuit of traveling shows for the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA), the Black vaudeville circuit, which included venues. In July 1923, under the name Fae Barnes, she recorded “Stop Wastin’ My Time” as a test pressing for the Victor recording label. In August 1923 she recorded two songs for Black Swan Records, a Black-owned recording company based in Harlem, New York. The following month Maggie Jones recorded under her real name two songs, “You Can’t Do What My Last Man Did” and “Don’t Never Tell Nobody What Your Good Man Can Do,” accompanied by Fletcher Henderson, for Pathé Records, which initially advertised her and other blues singers as comediennes. She signed an exclusive contract with Black Swan in November 1923. In December, however, the company declared bankruptcy and was purchased by Paramount in 1924. Jones made her last recordings as Fae Barnes for Paramount in April 1924.

Between 1924 and 1926 Maggie Jones recorded, mostly for Columbia, nearly forty songs, including “Dallas Blues,” “Poor House Blues,” “Single Woman Blues,” “Anybody Here Want to Try My Cabbage,” “Undertaker Blues,” “Cheatin’ on Me,” and “I’m a Back Bitin’ Mama.” She recorded with several musical legends between 1924 and 1926, including Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, and Charlie Green. In 1927 she was the featured attraction at the famous Roxy jazz club in New York and performed with Clarence Muse Vaudeville Company, and in 1928 and 1929 she toured Europe, including Moulin Rouge in Paris, with Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds Revue.

Throughout her music career, she was frequently forced to earn her living outside the world of music and operated a dress store in New York for a time. By 1931 she had moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where her brother lived, and performed on Sunday nights on WBAP radio in Fort Worth. She soon became the featured performer at the Oasis Club, where she was billed as the “the girl from Harlem singing your favorite songs.” She also formed her own revue, which performed at such spots as the All-American Cabaret in Fort Worth. In 1938 she performed with the All-Harlem Floor Show at the Buccaneer Club and with Sonny Vee at the Shadowland Club. Her last known performance was at Grand Theater as a guest artist on the first Fabons Street Follies radio program, the first radio program produced by African Americans in Texas, which aired on KTAT.

Maggie Jones died of acute myocarditis at her brother’s home in Fort Worth on March 9, 1940. Her death certificate erroneously reported her birthday as September 10, 1901. At the time of her death, she was single and worked as a cashier at the Ritz Theatre. She was buried in the Hillsboro City Cemetery in her hometown.

 

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Amarillo Globe, September 15, 1932. Chicago Defender, November 24, 1923; November 5, 1927. Discography of American Historical Recordings: Fae Barnes (https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/mastertalent/detail/109158/Barnes_Fae), accessed October 9, 2021. Discography of American Historical Recordings: Maggie Jones (https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/mastertalent/detail/109157/Jones_Maggie), accessed October 9, 2021. Bob L. Eagle and Eric S. LeBlanc, Blues: A Regional Experience (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2013). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, December 6, 13, 1931; January 24, 1932; December 13, 14, 1934; February 25, 1938; April 23, 1938; June 15, 1938. Virginia L. Grattan, American Women Songwriters: A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1993). Michelle Granshaw, “Black Swan Records (1921–1923),” BlackPast.org., October 18, 2010 (https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/black-swan-records-1921-1923/), accessed April 17, 2021. Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979). Colin Larkin, ed., The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (New York: Guinness, 1998). Pampa Daily News, September 18, 1932. Pittsburgh Courier (Pennsylvania), October 17, 1925. Brian Rust, Jazz and Ragtime Records, 1897–1942, Volume 1, ed. Malcolm Shaw (Denver: Mainspring Press, 2002). Wilmington Morning News (Delaware), November 17, 1923.

Categories:

  • Music
  • Genres (Blues)
  • Women
  • Peoples
  • African Americans

Time Periods:

  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s

Places:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • Fort Worth
  • North Texas

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

James Head Revised by Katherine Kuehler Walters, “Maggie Jones [Fae Barnes],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 21, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/barnes-fae-maggie-jones.

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November 21, 2006
October 13, 2021

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