Mamie Smith (not truly a blues singer, although black) sang two blues numbers written for her by black songwriter Perry Bradford: That Thing Called Love (february 1920), the first record by a black female artist, and Crazy Blues (august 1920), the first blues to become a nation-wide hit (with Willie Smith on piano). It sold 200,000 copies the first year.
She was accompanied by the Jazz Hounds, that featured Memphis trumpeter Johnny Dunn, the first master of the plunger mute.
Before Smith's hit, blues music only catered to the underworld of brothels and vaudeville theaters. Afterwards, blues music became as "respectable" as the
black syncopated orchestras, despite the fact that it was a music about sorrow instead of joy.
The idea of that record was largely due to its black producer, Alabama-born pianist Perry Bradford, a veteran of the minstrel-show circuit and now a songwriter, author of Lonesome Blues (1918), who had just composed the blues-based revue Made in Harlem (1918), that had starred Mamie Smith. He
revised James Johnson's Mama's And Papa's Blues as Crazy Blues,
architected the "respectable" sound of the record (different from the "wild" live sound of the Jazz Hounds) and convinced the label (Okeh) to release the first blues record by black musicians.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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