Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith teaches almost every lesson a blues vocalist needs to know. Bessie was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee she learned  her trade as a singer in  travelling shows and also from a period with an older blues singer Ma Rainey.

She began recording for Colombia in 1923. Her first release was Down Hearted Blues/Gulf Coast Blues. It was a successful hit selling hundreds of thousands which ensured her of a busy recording schedule.

She starred in revues such as Harlem Frolics, Yellow Girl Revue, Steamboat Days and Happy Times, which was played at every significant black theatre in the country. By 1924 Bessie had discovered the cornest Joe Smith and trombonist Charlie Green her favourite studio partners. Bessie also was accompanied by Louis Armstrong ‘The St Louis Blues’, ‘Careless Love Blues’.

Record making had a slump  during the great depression however, in 1932 the producer John Hammond hunted her down in seedy Harlem theatres which was all she could get. Hammond set up a session for her and a hired band which included the trombonist Jack Teagarden, Frank ie Newton on trumpet and Chu Berry on tenor. ‘Gimme A Pigfoot’ was a party anthem which was popular.

Four years later whilst Bessie was on tour in the south she was seriously injured in a road accident in northern Missis sipping and died before she reached hospital.


The Blues by Tony Russell



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