Ruby Smith

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Ruby SmithRuby Smith (August 24, 1903 March 24, 1977) was an American classic female blues singer. She was a niece, by marriage, of the better known Bessie Smith, who discouraged Ruby from a recording career. Nevertheless, following Bessie's death in 1937, Ruby went on to record twenty-one sides between 1938 and 1947. She is also known for her recorded explicit, and candid observations, on her own and Bessie's lifestyle. Biography She was born Ruby Walker in New York, United States. She met Bessie Smith in Philadelphia, and after her aunt (by marriage) made her debut recording in February 1923, Ruby joined her on tour in 1924.

Ruby assisted off-stage with costume changes, and provided entertainment in the intermissions with her dancing. Although Ruby's thoughts of a career as a singer were initially thwarted in 1926 by Bessie's insistence, Ruby continued to travel with Bessie on tour. In Atlanta, Georgia, Ruby spent a night in the cells after being discovered bringing moonshine for her aunt to consume. In 1927, Ruby was part of the female entourage led by Bessie to the 'buffet flats' in Detroit, Michigan. Her lengthy recorded interview given to Chris Albertson, contained references to this time and others, and the recording became part of Bessie Smith's The Complete Recordings, Vol. 5:

The Final Chapter box set. Of a particularly 'open house' sex show, Smith said, 'People used to pay good just to go in there and see him do his act.' Later Jack Gee, Bessie's then husband, once implored Ruby to take the musical stage, after her aunt had walked out in Indianapolis, Indiana. However, the deception did not last long, and in the event Bessie died tragically in 1937. Shortly afterwards, she adopted the stage name of Ruby Smith, and less than a year later recorded six tracks including a cover version of Bessie's 'Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair Blues.' At the same session she waxed her version of the Alex Hill penned, 'Draggin' My Heart Around.' In March 1939, Smith under the musical direction of James P. Johnson, recorded 'He's Mine, All Mine,' and the Bessie Smith co-composition with Johnson, 'Backwater Blues'. In December 1941, and backed by an ensemble led by Sammy Price, she recorded two more tracks, 'Why Don't You Love Me Anymore?' and her own song, 'Harlem Gin Blues'. Her final recording sessions took place in August 1946 and in January the following year, when she was backed by Gene Sedric's band. Smith died on March 24, 1977, in Anaheim, California, at the age of 73. Her recorded work has been made available on several compilation albums, including Jazzin' the Blues (1943-1952), released by Document Records in 2000.


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