Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Clara Smith (c. 1894 2 February 1935) was an American blues singer. She was billed as the "Queen of the Moaners", although Smith actually had a lighter and sweeter voice than her contemporaries and main competitors.

clara smithCareer

Smith was born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. In her youth she worked on African American theater circuits and tent shows. By the late 1910s she was appearing as a headliner at the Lyric Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana and on the T.O.B.A. circuit.

In 1923 she settled in New York, appearing at cabarets and speakeasies there; that same year she made the first of her commercially successful series of gramophone recordings for Columbia Records, for whom she would continue recording through to 1932. She cut 122 songs often with the backing of top musicians (especially after 1925) including Louis Armstrong, Charlie Green, Joe Smith, Freddy Jenkins and James P. Johnson (in 1929). Plus she recorded two vocal duets with Bessie Smith, and four with Lonnie Johnson.

The comparisons with near namesake Bessie Smith were inevitable. Clara Smith was on The Whole less fortunate than Bessie in her accompanists, and her voice was less imposing but, to some tastes, prettier, and many of her songs were interesting.

In 1933 she moved to Detroit, Michigan and worked at theaters there until her hospitalization in early 1935 for heart disease, of which she died.