Tag Archives: Clara Smith

78: “Do Your Duty” b/w “Down In the Dumps” by Bessie Smith. Okeh 8945. Recorded November 24, 1933 in New York City.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

 

Born in Chattanooga, TN in the 1890‘s (the exact date is a point of some debate), Bessie Smith was hugely popular and influential in the 1920’s. She recorded 160 songs for Columbia Records, with her debut single (“Gulf Coast Blues” paired with “Downhearted Blues”) selling 750,000 copies in 1923. She would work with such future legends as Fletcher Henderson, Coleman Hawkins, and Louis Armstrong, and she defied racial segregation by traveling with her band in their own private railroad car years before Duke Ellington could afford to do so himself. The woman was a star, rightly dubbed “Empress of the Blues.”

 

But the public’s taste can be fickle, and the depression hurt the public’s willingness to spend money on records, so Bessie was dropped from Columbia, cutting her final sides with them in 1931. Continue reading

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