Simple Music Video Series: Shirlette Ammons

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It’s always a pleasure when an artist comes in to debut new material, as was the case recently with Durham emcee Shirlette Ammons. Apart from her work with the Dynamite Brothers, she’s been making a solo concept album as a tribute to and in the spirit of Gladys Bentley.

"Bentley was a dyke performer during the Harlem Renaissance who was backed by a chorus of drag queens. Her show was one of the more popular shows in town. She often took popular blues songs and changed the lyrics to make them more raunchy,” Ammons explains. “During McCarthyism she toned down her performance and began dressing 'like a woman' for fear of being blacklisted. She died in 1960 of a flu epidemic and she was studying to be an ordained minister at the time.

"My vision with this project is to re-imagine Gladys Bentley,” she continues, “present-day by creating music that celebrates renegade prowess and raunch using the popular genre of our time which is hip hop."

Here, Ammons is backed by the production of Apple Juice Kid.

Shirlette & The Dynamite Brothers have a warm-up for their Hopscotch performance at Kings Barcade Saturday, August 25 along with Birds & Arrows. From there, they will then open the City Plaza stage at Hopscotch on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 5:45 p.m. Tickets are available here. Shirlette will release her solo concept album at the Pinhook September 21 with Humble Triple.


The purpose of the Independent Weekly's Simple Music Video Series is to capture local and touring musicians who we feel are producing something special. The hope is to capture something very simple in order to mirror the experience of viewing a performance as if you were in a small crowd watching a quiet set. We hope for content of the music to be the primary focus of the series, not multiple camera angles meant to keep the viewer guessing and entertained.

Most bands featured in the series will be a sample of the deep pool of talent in the Triangle, while others will represent some of our touring favorites.

[Correction: Here, Ammons is backed by the production of Apple Juice Kid (not Juan Huevos).]

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