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Once Upon a Time, Only Ladies Sang The Blues

Black History Quiz
Once Upon a Time, Only Ladies Sang The Blues
By Jim Stroud • Issue #90 • View online
Black History Quiz is a weekly celebration of the contributions and achievements of Africans and the descendants of the diaspora in the United States and around the world. PLEASE SHARE this newsletter and help spread the word about a proud people and their cultures. New issues post on Sundays at 7:30 am EST. | www.blackhistoryquiz.com

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Black History Quiz: A Word Find Puzzle Book of Black History Facts and Quotes
Once Upon a Time, Only Ladies Sang The Blues
Once upon a time, record labels did not cater to African Americans because they thought there would be no support from the African American community. The BBC discussed the history of that recently. Here’s a quote:
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.“
Mamie Smith - Crazy Blues (1920)
Mamie Smith - Crazy Blues (1920)
The AMAZING success of Crazy Blues sparked a mad rush to find more talent for “race records.” Can you name some of the black female singers of that era that labels like Columbia, Paramount and Okeh scooped up and made stars?
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BHQ ANSWER
Rarely has the music industry’s received wisdom been upended by a single hit. By selling an estimated one million copies in its first year, Crazy Blues was like the first geyser of oil in untapped ground, instantly revealing a huge appetite for records made by and for black people. As labels such as Okeh, Paramount and Columbia rushed into the so-called “race records” market, they snapped up dozens of women like Smith, (“Queen of the Blues”), including Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (“Mother of the Blues”), Bessie Smith (“Empress of the Blues”), Ida Cox (“Uncrowned Queen of the Blues”), Ethel Waters, Sara Martin, Edith Wilson, Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace and Alberta Hunter. “One of the phonograph companies made over four million dollars on the Blues,” reported The Metronome in 1922. “Now every phonograph company has a coloured girl recording. Blues are here to stay.” The classic blues was African-American culture’s first mainstream breakthrough and, for several years, it was effectively a female art form. (Source: BBC)
Further study:
Bessie Smith - St.Louis Blues (1929)
Ida Cox-Four Day Creep
Stormy Weather - Ethel Waters (1933)
Miss Edith Wilson - My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More
Victoria Spivey  -  Black Snake Blues  -  1963
Alberta Hunter - You Can't Tell The Difference After Dark
Alberta Hunter - You Can't Tell The Difference After Dark
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jim Stroud

Black History Quiz is a weekly celebration of the contributions and achievements of Africans and the descendants of the diaspora in the United States and around the world. PLEASE SHARE this newsletter and help spread the word about a proud people and their cultures. New issues post on Sundays at 7:30 am EST. | www.blackhistoryquiz.com

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