Sheet: Crazy Blues
Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds
Perry Bradford Music Publishing Co., New York, 1920
vaudeville artist, Mamie Smith, became the first Black female
singer to record a popular record, bringing a fresh, new sound
to the American recording industry. Smith's hit record, "Crazy
Blues," led other record companies to record blues and other music
by African-American performers.
had been marketed to immigrants, but African Americans had been
largely ignored by the recording industry before 1920. While record
companies included in their catalogs African American-inspired
music by white performers, only a few Black musical entertainers,
like W.C. Handy and Bert Williams, had managed to record.
In early 1920,
African-American composer, Perry Bradford, convinced the white
manager of Okeh records to record an African-American female vocalist.
Mamie Smith's recording of Blanford's blues compositions, "That
Thing Called Love" backed by "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down"
quickly sold 10,000 copies when marketed in August 1920. Okeh
immediately recorded Smith again, singing "Crazy Blues" accompanied
by her band, Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds. An instant success, "Crazy
Blues" sold more than 70,000 copies during the first month. Other
record companies quickly followed Okeh's lead, producing their
own recordings of African-American blues vocalists. Okeh's success
even presented a serious challenge to established recording industry
giants like Victor and Columbia, compelling them to become more
active in the African-American and popular markets.
of Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues," began a new era in the recording
industry, with records made by African-American performers for
an African-American audience. Although initially intended for
the Black audience, the music soon crossed over into the white
mainstream popular market.