Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mamie Smith

Mamie Smith

Mamie Smith was born as Mamie Robinson on May 26, 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio and lived until September 16, 1946. She was a vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist and actress, and appeared in several motion pictures late in her career. As a vaudeville singer she performed a number of styles including jazz and blues. She entered blues history by being the first African American to make vocal blues recordings in 1920.

She toured with African-American vaudeville and minstrel shows until settling in New York City in 1913, where she worked as a cabaret singer. She appeared in songwriter Perry Bradford's musical "Made in Harlem" in 1918. In early 1920, Okeh Records planned to record popular singer Sophie Tucker performing a pair of songs by Perry Bradford. Tucker was ill and could not make it to the session; Bradford persuaded Okeh to allow Mamie Smith to record in Tucker's place. Later that year Smith recorded the Bradford-penned "Crazy Blues”. These were the first recordings of vocal blues by an African American singer. “Crazy Blues” was a hit, selling a million copies in one year. The success of Smith's record prompted record companies to seek to record other female blues singers and started the era of what is now known as classic female blues.

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