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Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women Brought New Fans To The Blues

Founded in 1987, and later amicably disbanded in 2009, Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women were a trio of talented musicians and witty song writers who mined a new/old vein to convert many fans to the Blues.

The Chicago Sun-Times labeled them "a rollicking joyride of infectious blues energy... smart and sexy, soulful and sassy."

Original members Ann Rabson, Gaye Adegbalola and Earlene Lewis set a direction that mixed feminist themes with joshing lampooning of stereotypes. That tradition continued in 1992 when mandolinist Andra Faye replaced bassist Lewis. Rabson sang and played piano and guitar while guitarist Adegbalola also sang.

While sometimes dead serious, it was mostly the humor and female point of view that brought many new listeners to the center core of Blues. Along with their own compositions, covers were always a part of the mix, such as songs written or made familiar by Sippie Wallace, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Big Mama Thornton and the irrepressible Ida Cox.

Like Cox long before, the stereotype male chauvinist often played a role in Saffire's songs – and then there was the fact that the trio was made up of mature women. As Alberta Hunter showed in her later career, older women can express a wry humor about sexuality that might seem inappropriate in younger artists.

One excellent example of what made the group such a treat was their 1990 W. C. Handy Best Original Song of the Year winning tune, "Middle Aged Blues Boogie," written by Adegbalola. It played on both sexist and age-ist preconceptions.


Ann Rabson, who did some solo work after the trio disbanded, passed away of cancer in 2013, aged 67. Andra Faye continues playing in the Indianapolis area. Gaye Adegbalola still plays and records, as well as powerfully championing feminist and LBGT rights.

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