Known as the "Empress Of Blues", Bessie Smith was said to have revolutionized the vocal end of Blues Music. She showed a lot of pride as an independent African-American woman. Her style in performance and lyrics often reflected her lifestyle. Bessie Smith was one of the first female jazz artists, and she paved the way for many musicians who followed. Bessie was born April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to a part time Baptist preacher, William Smith, and his wife Laura. The family was large and poor. Soon after she was born her father died. Laura lived until Bessie was only nine years old. The remaining children had to learn to take care of themselves. Her sister Viola then raised her. But it was her oldest brother, Clarence, who had the most impact on her. Clarence always encouraged Bessie to learn to sing and dance. After Clarence had joined the Moses Stokes Minstrel Show, Bessie got auditions.
Bessie's career began when she was 'discovered' by none other than Ma Rainey when Ma's revue, the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, was passing through Chattanooga around 1912 and she had the occasion to hear young Bessie sing. Ma took Bessie on the road with the show and communicated, consciously or not, the subtleties and intricacies of an ancient and still emerging art form.
Bessie started by working small-time traveling tent shows. With the help of Clarence she began her professional career in 1912, and soon became a featured singer. Smith was an established star with the black audiences throughout the south by the time she moved to Philadelphia in 1921. However, two more years would pass before she would begin her recording career. Soon after moving to Philadelphia, Smith supposedly auditioned for Okeh and other recording companies. However, each time the...