Mamie Smith (1883–1946) was a vaudeville performer, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, who went on to become the first African-American to make blues vocal recordings. At the age of ten, she began touring with the white ensemble the Four Dancing Mitchells, and as a teenager she performed with Salem Tutt Whitney’s Smart Set. Known for her spectacular performances, Smith’s vaudeville training meant she entered the blues circuit with an engaging and well-rehearsed act. Her biggest hit was ‘Crazy Blues’, written by Perry Bradford and released in July 1920: it achieved phenomenal sales (said to exceed one million copies), bringing about the birth of the “race music” genre and opening the door of the recording industry to African-American musicians.
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