Although the origins of blues music are difficult to trace completely, the blues movement is said to have grown from African American song and culture throughout the South. Women were an influential part of this development with several female blues singers driving the movement throughout the United States. In 1920, Perry Bradford brought Mamie Smith into the spotlight with her performance of “Crazy Blues,” which was the first commercial blues record ever recorded. The influence of Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, and Ida Cox can still be heard in more contemporary artists like Toni Braxton, Gladys Knight, and others.
Additional resources for research
- Empress of the Blues: The Bessie Smith Story, University of Virginia.
- Mamie Smith and the Birth of the Blues Market, National Public Radio.
- The Mother and the Empress: Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, Bio.