Bradford, (John Henry) Perry [Mule]
- Chris Albertson
(b Montgomery, AL, Feb 14, 1893; d New York, NY, April 20, 1970). American jazz composer, pianist, and singer. He was raised in Atlanta, GA, where he had piano lessons as a child. After leaving home at an early age, he led a nomadic existence as a vaudeville performer and solo pianist before settling in Chicago in 1909 and moving to New York around 1912. He wrote, published, and energetically promoted his own music, but none of his efforts proved as rewarding as a 1920 Okeh Records release of Mamie Smith singing two of his songs, “That Thing Called Love” and “Crazy Blues.” The release resulted from Bradford’s persistent attempts to convince Okeh’s Fred Hagar that there was a market for African American singers. It is generally recognized as the first commercial recording of a blues sung by a black performer. Sales reached a million copies, generated a blues craze that boosted the careers of such singers as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Ida Cox, and awakened the record industry to an untapped potential that ultimately changed the sound and direction of America’s popular music....