Bessie Smith Facts

Bessie Smith Facts
Bessie Smith was an American singer who became known as the Empress of the Blues and one of the greatest singers of her time. She was born Bessie Smith on April 15, 1894, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Laura Owens and William Smith. Her parents died while she was young, and her older sister Viola took over as the parent. Bessie and her brother Andrew busked on Chattanooga streets to earn money to help support the household. By 1912 Bessie was hired as a dancer in a troupe and moved on to sing in chorus lines. She signed a contract with Columbia Records and became the biggest star on the Theater Owners Booking Association circuit.
Interesting Bessie Smith Facts:
Bessie Smith's father died when she was very young and she couldn't remember him. Her mother and one brother died when she was nine years old.
Bessie's oldest brother Clarence joined a traveling troupe in 1904 and left without telling Bessie, because she would have wanted to join him but she was too young.
When Bessie Smith auditioned for Black Swan Records she stopped singing to spit and was dismissed from the audition as a result. She was considered to be too rough.
The success of Mamie Smith's record titled Crazy Blues in 1920 led the recording industry to look for female blues artists.
Frank Walker, a talent agent of Columbia Records, signed Bessie Smith. He had seen her perform before.
Bessie Smith's first record was titled Cemetery Blues was released on September 26, 1923. Both sides of the record became hit songs. Columbia Records nicknamed Bessie Smith Queen of the Blues but the press began calling her the Empress of the Blues.
Bessie Smith married Jack Gee on June 7, 1923. He was a security guard. Her first record was being released at the time.
Bessie Smith became the highest paid African-American performer of the time while she was married to Jack Gee. Bessie ended the relationship but not the marriage in 1929, after learning Jack was involved with another singer.
Bessie Smith lived with Richard Morgan, an old friend, until her death. They were common-law.
Bessie Smith recorded 160 songs for Columbia Records.
Musicians that accompanied Bessie Smith include Charlie Green, Joe Smith, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, and Louis Armstrong.
Bessie Smith's lyrics often included commentary on social issues and other African-American working class issues.
Bessie Smith's lyrics were not embraced by everyone as she encouraged African American women to work and enjoy life in the same way that men often did.
When the Great Depression hit, the recording industry nearly went under. Bessie Smith's career was cut short.
Despite her career as a recording artist ending, Bessie Smith continued to perform in clubs.
Bessie Smith appeared in the film St. Louis Blues in 1929.
Bessie Smith appeared in the Broadway musical titled Pansy in 1929.
Bessie Smith and Richard Morgan were in a car accident on September 26, 1937. She died as a result of her injuries. Over 7,000 mourners attended her funeral.


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