...Well, not really.
While Lady Julie Coker is very often hailed as the original Miss Nigeria, in truth, not only was she not the first woman to hold that title (that would be Grace Atinuke Oyelude, in 1957), she was never Miss Nigeria at all!
Lady Coker was actually crowned Miss Western Nigeria in 1958, and while she was a Miss Nigeria contestant in the same year, she came in as first runner-up to Helen Anyamaehuna (below).
Although she did not win the contest (and a contest it was in those days, rather than a "pageant"--hundreds of young ladies sent their photographs in to the Daily Times and the winner was picked by a panel) she might as well have been Miss Nigeria anyway, as she embodied the spirit and values that the title professed to represent: In 1959, at the age of 19, she became one of the first broadcasters on Nigerian television.
(Much like the Miss Nigeria thing, her status as a television pioneer is famously misconstrued. While she is widely reputed to have been the first broadcaster on Nigerian television, she was actually again a runner-up in this category: Anike Agbaje-Williams was the first woman--and the first person, period--to appear on Nigerian TV. Julie Coker was Agbaje-Williams' trainee and shortly thereafter took over when her mentor went on maternity leave.)
Julie Coker remained a constant presence on TV until the late 1980s. Along the way, she also dabbled as an actress and radio personality, and for a while was married to fellow newscaster Richard Enahoro (who in a previous life had been a popular highlife musician, playing guitar in Roy Chicago's Rhythm Dandies); on air, the pair projected an easy air of cosmopolitan glamour as the country's first power couple. For many years, Julie Coker was the most famous and admired woman in Nigeria.
So, when the Nigerian music industry mushroomed in the 1970s, it made sense for her to parlay her celebrity into a recording career, especially as female performers were rare at the time.
Her first album, Ere Yon (Sweet Songs) was released in 1977. Stalwart producer Odion Iruoje helmed the sessions at EMI Studios in Lagos, with ace players such as guitarist James Eyefia, bassist Kenneth Okulolo (of Monomono fame) and Johnny Wood (of S-Job Movement and Sonny Okosuns' Ozziddi). The material, as was the vogue for female singers at the time, is composed of rootsy arrangements of folk songs drawn from Coker's Itsekiri background.
Acccording to the sleeve notes, the title track "refers to the legend of the water spirit that usually comes out during festivals in the riverine areas to listen to songs and music of the inhabitants," while the song "Elelemi" is described as "a folksong which young maidens chant as they play on moonlit nights dancing around in circles like a maypole dance."
By 1981, the status of women in the music business was rapidly changing. Eighties ladies like Dora Ifudu, Oby Onyioha and Onyeka Onwenu were appearing on the scene, their flashy, unapologetically pop poses standing in stark contrast to Julie Coker's old-school conservatism. Coker's album Tomorrow shows her adapting to this new climate. Produced by James Eyefia, the album was recorded in the UK with a few of the usual London players (Jake Sollo, Pam Douglas, Carol Ingrams, et al) and featured Coker singing more in English over "a good blend of disco, crossover highlife and balad [sic]." "Sogio" is a remake of "Elelemi" and "Gossiper Scandal Monger" is singled out in the notes as a track that "makes for good disco dancing."
"Gossiper Scandal Monger"