Smith and Stanley
Among our present projects is documentation of OKeh masters of the 1920s. Early OKeh repertoire is not very different from contemporary pop releases of Victor and Columbia: concert bands, dance bands, small vocal ensembles, Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Ada Jones, the Green Brothers, and the like. Several months ago we posted documentation of OKeh master S-7529, “Crazy blues” by Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds, recorded August 10, 1920. Smith’s “Crazy blues” is widely recognized as a landmark recording, the first vocal recording of “vaudeville blues” by an African American singer. (It‘s essential to qualify “firsts.”) “Crazy blues” is far from what we expect today of a vocal blues recording. It is very much of its time, as much novelty as vernacular in form and expression. Its significance now is heralding the beginning of the era of African American blues “shouters” and revealing the potential of recordings by and for African Americans.
Users of the DAHR are encouraged to explore the Date Browse function of website. DAHR reveals recordings made the same day by all of the record companies included in the DAHR. The website shows that the very day that Smith recorded “Crazy blues,” the prolific white vocalist, Aileen Stanley, recorded “The Broadway blues” for Victor. Stanley, now nearly forgotten, was a very talented and successful artist.
Users of the DAHR will note the ever-increasing breadth of OKeh’s repertoire, as the company discovers and exploits the emerging markets for “race” and “hillbilly” recordings, while providing new outlets for performances by well-established recording artists.