From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Hunter, Zella M.

(born: 1890) 

Zella M. Hunter was born in Newport, KY, and would become a noted pianist in Chicago. She is mentioned on p.122 in The Creation of Jazz: music, race, and culture in urban America by B. W. Peretti. Zella Hunter was the oldest child of Eula Gray Hunter and John Hunter, who were both from Missouri. Her parents were married in 1888 [source: 1900 U.S. Census]. The family may not have been in Kentucky long, they traveled; Zella was born in Kentucky, the next daughter, Vivien, was born in Missouri, their third daughter, Wanema, was born in Illinois, and their son John was born in Iowa. The family would settle in Mason City, Iowa, were Zella's father was employed as a train porter [sources: 1900 U. S. Census; and 1905 Iowa State Census]. In 1908, Zella Hunter was about 19 years old when she played piano at the Bijou Theatre in Mason City, Iowa [source: p.114 in R. L. Polk & Co.'s Mason City Directory 1908]. The prior year, she had been a clerk at F G Murphy [source: p.105 in R. L. Polk & Co.'s Mason City Directory 1907]. In 1909, she was a pianist at the Star Theatre in Mason City, which was also the year that she married Fred Russell [sources: p.128 in R. L. Polk & Co.'s Mason City Directory 1909; and 1910 U.S. Census]. The couple lived with Zella's family; her mother was head of the household and Zella's father, John Hunter, had died. Zella's husband Fred Russell was about 11 years older than her, he was born in New York, and was employed as a waiter, and later was a porter, both in Mason City, Iowa [sources: 1910 U.S. Census; and p217 in R. L. Polk & Co.'s Mason City Directory 1910]. In 1913, Zella was in Chicago, she played at the Pompeii Cabaret and is mentioned on p.597 in Blacks in Blackface by H. T. Sampson. She is also mentioned on p.28 in Alberta Hunter: a celebration in blues by F. C. Taylor and G. Cook. By 1920, Zella was a widow and she was using her maiden name Hunter, she was living in Chicago and playing piano in a band [source: 1920 U.S. Census]. She later married Oley? Wilson, he was an actor from Virginia, and Zella played piano in an orchestra [source: 1930 U.S. Census]. Zella Hunter was never recorded as a musician, though she found steady work as a pianist in Chicago according to author B. W. Peretti. Zella Hunter Russell Wilson's death date and location are not known at this time.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Campbell County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Newport, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

References

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Creation of jazz: music, race, and culture in urban America
NKAA Source: R. L. Polk & Co.'s Mason City directory (annual)
NKAA Source: R. L. Polk & Co.'s Mason City directory (annual)
NKAA Source: R. L. Polk & Co.'s Mason City directory (annual)
NKAA Source: R. L. Polk & Co.'s Mason City directory (annual)
NKAA Source: Blacks in blackface: a source book on early Black musical shows
NKAA Source: Alberta Hunter: a celebration in blues

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Kentucky African American Musicians in Illinois (Chicago)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Hunter, Zella M.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed December 11, 2018, http://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/3185.

Last modified: 2017-08-16 19:58:28