The first person to record a vocal blues album, Smith was a singer, actor and performer. Her 1920 recording ‘Crazy Blues’ was important for lots of reasons. It sold 75 000 copies in its first week and fueled a popular hunger for black women blues artists, which in turn shook the recording industry and race relations of the day. The song itself, written by Perry Bradford discussed the violence and experiences of black men and women in America in the 20s. Adam Gussow has written an interesting article about ‘Crazy Blues’*, and is interviewed about it here.
*Gussow, Adam, ‘”Shoot Myself a Cop”: Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” as Social Text’,
Callaloo 25.1, Jazz Poetics: A Special Issue (Winter, 2002), pp. 8-44.