From the classic blues of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey to female country blues pioneers Memphis Minnie and Geeshie Wiley, this Rough Guide explores the hugely significant and often overlooked role that women have played in the story of the blues.
The 1920s was undoubtedly the era of the female blues singer. With their origins in the worlds of vaudeville and jazz music, they enjoyed great commercial success throughout the decade, selling a considerable number of records and packing out clubs and theatres alike. Never has there been another time when women so dominated the genre and made the blues so much their own.
Mamie Smith was the first to emerge from the vaudeville circuit and became the first African-American artist to make a blues recording in 1920 with the featured ‘Crazy Blues’. The immense success of this recording opened the door for many others to follow such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Sippie Wallace and Ida Cox.
Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith were undoubtedly the most captivating and expressive of what became known as the ‘classic blues’ singers. Both dressed in flamboyant style and their powerful voices and forceful personalities set the standard for recorded blues, selling well among a southern rural audience familiar with their travelling tent shows and musical revues. Drawing upon some of the finest jazz talent of the early and mid-1920s for studio accompaniment, the classic blues of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and other popular blues singers was always full of double entendre or hidden and multiple meanings. Although an outcrop of Southern rural blues, an expression of the poor and oppressed, the sequined glamour of the classic blues was seen as a welcome contrast to drab lives. So while the blues until the 1920s was largely local, rural, Southern and male, these women were urban performance artists, travelling and performing in the new speakeasies and nightclubs of a ....... więcej