Mamie Smith / May 26, 1883 - Sept 16, 1946

On February 14, 1920, Mamie Smith recorded two songs for Okeh Records and history was made as she was the first black blues singer to make an appearance on record. The label was threatened with a boycott if they recorded a black singer but they did so anyway and the Smith-Okeh partnership went on to sell MILLIONS of records, bringing a huge jump in sales to what was called at the time "race records".

She came from the Midwest and started touring at 10 with a vaudeville act before moving to NYC in 1913. She became a big star of her day and toured the US and Europe with her Jazz Band. She appeared in some newfangled "talkie" films before she retired to her home in Staten Island. By that point, she had made a lot of money. Simply put, she was the first of the classic female blues singers on record.

Tagged: blues, Celebrate Icons, jazz, Mamie Smith, women in jazz

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