The Empress Of The Blues, Bessie Smith got her start busking with her brother in Chattanooga as a young girl. Still a child when she auditioned for the Stokes troupe, she won the gig as a dancer, not a singer, because that chair was already filled by none other than Ma Rainey, The Mother Of The Blues! Both singers became major stars, enjoying long and prolific performing and recording careers. Bessie Smith’s “Thinking Blues” is a great intro to this magnificent and hugely influential American music legend.
A contemporary of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, Bessie Jackson was as bold with her lyrical humor and sexual innuendo as she was with her vocal instrument itself. She recorded this sizzlin’ slab of vaudeville blues in 1935 in Chicago, with her longtime accompanists the greats Josh White on guitar and Walter Roland on piano. The track more than stands the test of time, and you also can hear clearly how this group helped lay the groundwork for the rock and roll music that would follow in decades later.
Ora Alexander was a blues singer and Vaudeville performer who recorded for Columbia Records in the early 1930’s. “You’ve Got To Save That Thing,” one of her better known tracks, is a definitive slice of the Vaudeville Blues genre. The performance just plain rocks, with raw accompaniment in the barrelhouse style, and a blistering vocal that would bring the house down in any nightspot today. Judging from the hoots and hollers, those present at this recording session couldn’t contain their enthusiasm! Well neither can we.