This is the latest from The Bluesmobile’s C.C. Rider, who spends her life venerating the founding fathers of the blues. She’s walked the crooked highways of this singing country to resurrect the voices of the past. With the dirt of the Delta on her hands, she sleeps in the shadow of the giants on whose shoulders popular music now stands.
Lady Smiths of the 1920s
Maybe you’ve heard ‘bout Bessie Smith. Empress of the Blues. Powerhouse in music history. One of the greatest voices of all time.
But she wasn’t the only Smith out there. The blues as we know it started with a Smith. And it wasn’t Bessie. At first, the blues was considered music for country-folk. Definitely not marketable. Then came Mamie Smith. In 1920, she recorded a track called “Crazy Blues,” the very first blues record ever made.
Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” opened up an entire new market. For the first time black people started really buying records, and they wanted more. More barrel-voiced women singin’ about stuff they’d lived through. The record companies smelled money. Bessie Smith was signed to Paramount Records in 1923, and along with her came a whole slew of bad blues babes. Including a few more Smiths. None of them related.
Take another popular lady-Smith: Clara. She became a star on Columbia records, backed by the best of ‘em. Playing with guys like Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson. Clara Smith became known as “Queen of the Moaners.”
And then there’s Trixie. Trixie Smith. She’s one baaaaad babe. Her song “My Daddy Rocks Me (with One Steady Roll)” is the first song to use the phrase “Rock n’ Roll.” History makin’ aside—it’s a smokin’ number. Here it is. Trixie Smith, “My Daddy Rocks Me.”