Mamie Smith

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Biography

Mamie "Queen of the Blues" Smith was born on May 26, 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mamie was a dancer, a singer, and a star of stage and screen. She toured the country numerous times and Europe, but was based in New York City at the peak of her fame from the 1910's to the 1930's.

Mamie Smith appeared in Perry Bradford's musical 'Made in Harlem' in 1918 in NYC. She appeared in the films 'Jailhouse Blues' in 1929, 'Paradise in Harlem' in 1939 with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra, 'Mystery in Swing' in 1940, 'Murder on Lenox Ave.' in 1941, 'Sunday Sinners' in 1941, and 'Because I Love You' in 1943 again with Luck Millinder. After entering the hospital in 1944, she died after a lengthy illness in the autumn of 1946 and is buried on Staten Island, NY.

Mamie Smith is recognized as the first African-American to record a vocal blues, the Crazy Blues for the OKeh label (OKeh 4169) on August 10, 1920. Her band at this session, the Jazz Hounds, included Johnny Dunn on cornet, Dope Andrews on trombone, Leroy Parker on violin, and Willie "The Lion" Smith on piano. The success of this release set off a recording boom previously unheard of, with record companies scrambling to record woman blues singers. Mamie recorded for the Okeh label 1920-1923, for Ajax in 1924, the Victor label in 1926, and Okeh in 1929 and 1931, each time in New York City.

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Joel Snow
Created October 23, 1996
Revised November 1, 1996