Smith, Bessie [Empress of the Blues]
- Paul Oliver
(b Chattanooga, TN, April 15, 1894; d Clarksdale, MS, Sept 26, 1937). American blues, jazz and vaudeville singer. She began her professional career in 1912 by singing in the same show as Ma Rainey. She then performed in various touring minstrel shows and cabarets, as well as the 81 Theatre in Atlanta. After further tours, she was sought out by the jazz pianist Clarence Williams to record in New York. Smith’s first recording, ...