The first commercial recording of vocal blues by an African-American
singer was Mamie Smith’s performance of Perry Bradford’s “Crazy
Blues” in 1920 on OKeh Records. Smith was backed by clarinetist Johnny
Dunn, trombone player Dope Andrews, clarinetist Ernest Elliott, Leroy Parker on
violin and pianist Perry Bradford who were collectively known as The Jazz
Written in 1918 and originally titled “Harlem Blues,” this was a song
Mamie Smith learned from Bradford for a New York stage show called “The Maid of
Re-titled “Crazy Blues,” it was the record that launched a new era for
blues in the music business and is said to have sold 75,000 in the first few months
of its release. Record companies realized a huge untapped market of talent and
potential buyers in the working-class black community.
The song brought wealth and fame to both Smith and Bradford during the
1920s and paved the way for Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and many more to follow.