Willa Mae Buckner was born on June 15th, 1922 in Augusta, Georgia. In her days as a touring performer, Buckner was known as “The Wild Enchantress,” “Princess Ejo,” “The Snake Lady,” and “The World’s Only Black Gypsy.” Her tent show performances could enthrall any crowd.
How We Helped:
Willa Mae has received financial assistance from Music Maker with utility bills, food for her snake, and prescription medicine. Music Maker has also recorded Willa Mae’s first tracks, and featured her in the documentary “Living the Blues” and the Music Maker Story film. Additionally, Music Maker helped Willa Mae secure gigs throughout North Carolina and at Carnegie Hall in New York. Willa Mae is featured in the book Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America (2004).
She was a true performer, showcasing herself as a blues singer, burlesque stripper, contortionist and fire swallower. More than anything, she was an articulate, self-educated and fiercely independent woman who blazed her own trail from the day she ran away from home and joined an all-black tent show at the age of 13. Her frank wit and exotic past set the tone when she sings her risque songs.
Willa was among the first recipients of aid from the Foundation’s programs. We were able to provide her money to buy the expensive medicine she had often done without to treat her chronic gout. We bought her heating oil in the winter and placed her in a nursing home when she broke her hip. We transported her to numerous gigs including a performance at Carnegie Hall where she received a standing ovation. We provided comfort in her final days and most sadly arranged her funeral.