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Smith (May 26, 1883 – September 16, 1946) was an American vaudeville
singer, dancer, pianist and actress, who appeared in several motion
pictures late in her career. As a vaudeville singer she performed a
number of styles including jazz and blues. She entered blues history by
being the first African American to make vocal blues recordings in 1920.
Although other African-Americans had been recorded earlier, such as George W. Johnson in the 1890s, they were all black artists, who had a substantial following with European-American audiences. The success of Smith's record prompted record companies to seek to record other female blues singers and started the era of what is now known as classic female blues. It also opened up the record industry to recordings by and for African Americans in other genres.
Mamie Smith on the sleeve of volume 1 of the Complete Recorded Works
reissue collection Mamie Smith continued to make a series of popular
recordings for Okeh throughout the 1920s. She also made some records for
Victor. She toured the United States and Europe with her band "Mamie
Smith & Her Jazz Hounds" as part of "Mamie Smith's Struttin' Along
Review". She was billed as "The Queen of the Blues". This billing of
Mamie Smith was soon one-upped by Bessie Smith, who called herself "The
Empress of the Blues".