Victoria Spivey papers, circa 1960-1976

Emory University

Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322



Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/8zws2

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Spivey, Victoria.
Title: Victoria Spivey papers, circa 1960-1976
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 809
Extent:8.75 linear ft. (17 boxes), 4 oversized papers (OP) and 1 bound volume (BV)
Abstract:Papers of Victoria Spivey, African American blues artist, motion picture actress, and owner of Spivey Records.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Due to the fragile nature of some of the materials, researchers are required to use photocopies.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Printed or manuscript music in this collection that is still under copyright protection and is not in the Public Domain may not be photocopied or photographed. Researchers must provide written authorization from the copyright holder to request copies of these materials.


Purchase, 1997 with subsequent additions


[after identification of item(s)], Victoria Spivey papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Emily Blanck, March, 1999; Revised

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Victoria Spivey, October 15, 1906 - October 3, 1976, African American blues artist, motion picture actress, and owner of Spivey Records, was born in Houston, Texas to Grant Spivey, a musician, and Addie Smith, a nurse. Her sisters Leona, Elton "Za Zu" and Addie "Sweet Peas" were also blues artists. She married four times; her husbands included Ruben Floyd, Billy Adams, and Len Kunstadt.

Spivey began her career playing first in Houston,Texas then later St. Louis, Missouri in the vaudeville and blues scene. At the age of 20 her first record, Black Snake Blues, was recorded in 1926 with Okeh Records. She recorded and performed in New York, Chicago, and Missouri through the 1930s with a range of prominent artists including Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson, Lucille Hegamin, Dallas Tan Town Topics, Hunter's Serenaders, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. In 1929 she appeared in the first the all-African American musical film, Hallelujah! During this era she was recorded on nine records. In her performances she was a vocalist, as well as a ukelele and piano player.

After taking a semi-retirement in the 1950s, Spivey returned to performing in the United States and internationally in Europe and in 1962 began her own record company, Spivey Records. She used this company as a vehicle to resurrect older blues artists as well as introduce new artists, including Luther Johnson, Lucille Span, Olive Brown, and the first recording of folk artist Bob Dylan. She also recorded some of her own music during this period and occasionally performed on television. By the time of her death in 1976 she had attained copyrights on the lyrics of at least seventy-five songs.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of papers of Victoria Spivey and those gathered about Spivey by her last husband Len Kunstadt from ca. 1960-1976. The papers include personal, business, and biographical documents. The collection mainly documents the resurgence of her singing career and her involvement in Spivey Records.

Arrangement Note

Organized into four series: (1) Personal papers, (2) Business records (3) Biographical materials, and (4) Restricted damaged materials.

Description of Series