Booker Miller tells us that Bertha Lee Pate (Charley Patton’s last wife who recorded with him in 1934) was an excellent songster in her own right, with a powerful stage presence and a strong voice. This recording is one of only two surviving from the 1934 sessions featuring Bertha Lee as primary vocalist, with guitar accompaniment (and secondary vocals) by Patton. Two more extant recordings feature her as a second vocalist with Patton. Of the twenty nine recordings they made for Vocalion, twelve are currently extant (though record hunters remain on the lookout…). The disappearance of the remaining recordings is down to mismanagement, neglect (!?) and lack of preservational awareness. Many of the lost recordings were credited as “Patton & Lee,” meaning they featured Bertha Lee as either a primary or second vocalist.
Yellow Bee is inspired by Memphis Minnie’s Bumble Bee, which Bertha Lee and Charley Patton bring to new heights in this recording. It embodies the chemistry of their passionate and sometimes turbulent relationship, and places them among the greatest recorded blues couples of all time, along with Blind Willie Johnson and Willie B. Harris, Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, and others.