Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her exact date of birth is unknown but it is said to be around 1894-6. She is known as "Empress of the Blues". Her career took of when she was discovered by Ma Rainey when her show was passing through town in 1912. Ma took Bessie on the road with her. .
From then on Bessie worked in small-time travelling tent shows such as hony-tonks, carnivals and other small groups. Her first recording was called "Down Hearted Blues" and was released in the spring of 1923. It was a total success and in the first year of it being released it had sold 2 million copies. In the mid-twenty's she toured the entire south and most of the major northern cities. She was always the star attraction, but being the highest paid black entertainer in the country, completely booked at $1500 a week and having the hottest records around also helped!.
In 1930 her career started to falter because of two reasons, one because of the public changing musical tastes and second of all-her drinking! She began to become known for her drinking. She started drinking when she was a teenager. She even wrote songs about it, "Gin house Blues" and "Me and My Gin" were two examples of them. But then in the end Bessie had one last hit in 1933.
On the night of her departure from Mississippi (27 of September, 1937) Bessie was in a car accident and bled to death. It is said that the hospital did not take her in because of her skin colour, but months after the accident that allegation was proven wrong.
In the time that Bessie was around she recorded 160 records and sang with some of the most famous blues singers ever-including Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Sidney Bechet and Joe Smith. She also performed in a short movie called "The St.Louis Blues" in 1929. .
A Time Line of when Bessie's records came out:.
1923 February 17 Down Hearted Blues.
1923 April 7 Ticket Agent Ease Your Window Down. .
1923 September 21 Jailhouse Blues.