Mamie Smith and the Birth of the Blues Market
Mamie Smith was the first black vocalist to record the blues. The song was “Crazy Blues,” and it became a hit. But it happened almost by accident.
Until 1920, no black singer had been recorded doing a blues song. Sophie Tucker was scheduled for a recording session earlier in the year, but fell ill. Perry Bradford, who wrote “Crazy Blues,” persuaded Okeh Records to use Smith instead.
And he was right about “Crazy Blues.” It sold 10,000 recordings the first week and 75,000 within a month.
“The recording of ‘Crazy Blues’ led the way for the professionalization of black music, for the black entertainment industry, and indeed for the immense popularity of black music today,” says Angela Davis, Professor of History, Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California/Santa Cruz.