Bessie Smith - Queen of the Blues Vol 2: the Later Years 1926-1933 (CD)

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Her Later - But Not Lesser Years

By 1926, Bessie Smith was the biggest female African American star. Others, like Ethel Waters and Ma Rainey had big followings, but their appeal was less wide - Waters went down better in the north, while Ma Rainey's power base was in the south. For the moment, Bessie's appeal was national. For most black artists at the time, Bessie included, records were a way of promoting their live shows. Income was secondary - they were routinely cheated out of royalty payments. As well as being a blues singer, Bessie starred in revue. Porter Grainger wrote 'Mississippi Days' as a vehicle for Bessie. Empty Bed Blues featured in the show and its two parts were issued as flipsides of the same disc. A hit on stage, it was a hit on record. Bessie took 'Mississippi Days' on a barnstorming tour, reportedly reviving the fortunes of the black theatre circuit. Two further Bessie Smith shows were commissioned. 'Steamboat Days' opened in Detroit in October 1928. A short but successful New York run followed. The second show closed after five months. Bessie then opened in a show called 'Pansy'. It flopped. Undaunted, she made a movie, 'St Louis Blues' whose thin story was a pretext for music-making. The sound track's choral segment is particularly uplifting and unlike anything else Bessie recorded. On her last recording session for OKeh. Bessie shows little sign of a two year absence - her drive is undiminished. All the sidemen seem to be straining to make the occasion special. Early 1934, she was on an all-star bill at New York's Apollo. 1935 wasn't too bad. In February, she substituted for Louis Armstrong at the Apollo. She can't have done badly, because she was back at least twice more. In February 1937, a three week booking in Philly was extended several times and there was talk of recordings. She responded to an invitation to play some southern dates. The first venue was in Memphis. As expected, she wowed the city. Her next date was in Clarksdale. She never made it.

Additional Details

Label: JSP Records

Genre: Blues

Release Date: 05/27/08

UPC: 788065903022

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