The music industry had previously assumed that African Americans wouldn’t buy record players, therefore there was no point in recording black artists. The entrepreneurial songwriter Perry Bradford, a man so stubborn he was known as “Mule”, knew better.
“There’s 14 million Negroes in our great country and they will buy records if recorded by one of their own,” he told Fred Hagar at Okeh Records. When a white singer dropped out of a recording session at the last minute, Bradford convinced Hagar to take a chance on [Mamie] Smith, a Cincinnati-born star of the Harlem club scene, and scored a substantial hit. Bradford then decided to use Smith to popularise a form of music that had been packing out venues in the South for almost 20 years. On 10 August, Smith and an ad hoc band called the Jazz Hounds recorded Bradford’s Crazy Blues. Thus the first black singer to record anything also became the first to record the blues.“