Terminus Records
   Precious Bryant was born Precious Bussey on January 4, 1942 in Talbot County, Georgia, just east of Columbus. The third child of nine, with seven sisters and a brother, was born into a family of traditional musicians who lived in a close-knit community, surrounded by many fine players and singers of traditional blues and gospel. Precious recalls a childhood filled with many different kinds of homemade music. Her mother was a piano player and an avid singer of church songs. Her father, Lonnie James Bussey, was a traditional blues player. Her uncle, George Henry Bussey, served
Photo by Adam Smith
as her principal mentor and taught her to play bottleneck guitar and to sing the old blues tunes. Several of her male cousins were members of a "fife and drum" group, a rare type of folk band which, with snare drums and homemade "reeds," often paraded and serenaded at community celebrations, fish frys and on holidays around Talbot and Harris counties.

   The first instrument Precious Bryant ever attempted to play was her father's old "home guitar," which was so big that the six-year-old Precious could not lift it by herself. She fondly recalls her father placing the guitar in her lap and encouraging his daughter to "take it up" and learn to play. At age nine she had advanced in her playing skills to the point that he bought her an instrument of her own - a Silvertone guitar from Sears & Roebuck.

   Precious’ early performances were in the Baptist Church. She and her siblings sang spiritual songs together as The Bussey Sisters, with Precious and one of her older sisters accompanying on guitar. Outside of church, Precious was asked to play at parties and talent shows in and around Talbot County.

   Her emerging repertoire was rooted in the traditional sounds of the lower Chattahoochee River Valley, but it also began to reflect the influence of the rhythm and blues and early rock ‘n’ roll that Precious heard on the radio. Precious explains, "I listened to Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and all them. Elmore James and blues like that. I would listen to a song on the radio and write the words down and I wouldn’t worry about the music ‘cause I could get the music. All I wanted to know was the words."

   Folklorist George Mitchell first recorded Precious in 1969. Over a decade later, at Mitchell’s coaxing, she reluctantly agreed to play at the Columbus, Georgia Chattahoochee Folk Festival. Precious was an instant hit. Her naturally warm stage presence and lively guitar style, combined with her excellent voice, quickly won her a devoted audience. Since her debut in Columbus, Precious Bryant has performed for scores of audiences in the United States and abroad. In addition to the Chattahoochee Folk Festival, notable venues include the Blues to Bop Festival in Lugano, Switzerland, the North Georgia Folk Festival in Athens, the Canadian Folk Festival, and the Alabama Folk Festival in Montgomery.

Photo by   
Fred C. Fussell   

   George Mitchell on Precious: "Precious Bryant is a Georgia musical treasure. She is one of the last of the living exponents, and certainly still the most active, of a truly wonderful blues tradition that is unique to the southwest region of Georgia. But, unusually, not only is she one of the last—she is no doubt one of the best who ever sang and played this spirited style of blues…whether in nearby Columbus, or in Europe, or in Canada, or in New York or Atlanta, Precious Bryant has gotten thousands and thousands of feet to tapping… to her infectious blend of the old and the new, of the songs of her father and uncle, and of her own compositions, most of which are keeping alive the great and truly unique blues tradition of the lower Chattahoochee River Valley."

   These days Precious plays mainly at home, with an occasional show in Columbus or Atlanta. To see Precious play live is a treat. She entices the audience, telling them, "Pat your hands together, ain’t nobody sick, ain’t nobody dead." Along with Precious’ own witty standards, any song she chooses to play is instantly transformed into a moving arrangement stamped with the attitude and assuredness of the true performer she has become.

   Precious Bryant is a rarity. Truly traditional female blues players, especially those as vocally powerful and technically skilled as Precious, have always been few. In the 1930s, Columbus, Georgia's Gertrude "Ma" Rainey became known as the "Mother of the Blues." Now, as we enter a new century, Talbot County's Precious Bryant has secured her place in the world of traditional American music as Georgia's "Daughter of the Blues."

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