Mamie Smith

The Impact of Mamie Smith


Mamie Smith was a very talented entertainer and performer on stage and in film. She is known as a legendary Blues musician and paved the way for many other Black blues artists. Mamie was born on May 26th, 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of ten she started touring with the Four Dancing Mitchells. Throughout her teens she toured and entertained with different acts. By the time she was 20, she lived in Harlem and starred in “Maid of Harlem” at the Lincoln Theater. Not soon after her career blossomed after singing “Crazy Blues” by Perry Bradford. 

Number One Hit

“Crazy Blues”: along with this song being the first blues recording, it represented Black women singers’ emergence into the popular music culture. “Crazy Blues” sales to Black people led to increased demand for race records from the music industry. In addition to “Crazy Blues”, she also performed other hits in America and Europe, including “Royal Garden Blues”, “Fare Thee Blues” and others. She worked under the Okeh label with the Jazz Hounds band, which were stated as the best African American Jazz musicians of all time.

Mamie Smith with the Jazz Hounds

"Crazy Blues"

Okeh's "Crazy Blues" Record

Mamie Smith's Impact

Mamie Smith was a Black woman with many skills and talents, like singing, dancing, playing the piano, and acting. “Crazy Blues” was a great success because it paved the way for other Black blues artists and the recognition of Black music within the Black community and American society. Smith was a pioneer for the Blues and Black women throughout the 1920s. After retiring from performances during the 1930s, she participated in various films. Some of the movies she is well known for: “Murder on Lenox Avenue”, “Paradise in Harlem”, and “Sunday Sinners.”

Mamie Smith in "Murder on Lenox Avenue"

"Paradise in Harlem" advertisement

Mamie Smith in "Sunday Sinners"

As a Black female singer, Mamie Smith does not receive enough credit or recognition for her contribution to the popularity of Blues music. Many of her fans know her worth and talent as a blues singer. She has inspired many of Black women artist, and help the growth of the blues and black music as a whole.

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