Mamie Smith

Although technically not a singer of blues, Mamie Smith made history as the first female black singer to record vocal blues. The record, “Crazy Blues”, was recorded August 10, 1920. It sold over a million copies within six months. This made record labels aware that there was a huge market for “race records”. It also opened the door for Bessie Smith (no connection) and other jazz and blues performers. Smith was an entertainer with a strong, penetrating voice and belting vaudeville quality. She performed as a dancer in Tutt-Whitney’s Smart Set Company as a teenager, and also sang in Harlem clubs prior to World War I. Smith’s recording session, which was her first, was an accident. Sophie Tucker was the one she was replacing, but the record’s success made Smith wealthy. Smith soon began to tour and record with a group called the Jazz Hounds. This band featured jazz legends such as Coleman Hawkins and Bubber Miley. She also toured in the 1930s with bands like Fats Pichon and Andy Kirk. In several films, she also appeared in (1939), including Paradise in Harlem. During her peak, she recorded many sides for OKeh; one unissued version of “My Sportin’ Man” can be found on Columbia’s Roots and Blues Retrospective 1925-1950. All of her recordings were reissued by the import Document label in the 1980s on LP. Allmusic

Leave a Comment