Commemorative issue American Music Series - Popular Singers
Known as the "Empress of the Blues," Bessie Smith reigned over the blues world in the United States and Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. Born into poverty in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Smith began singing in public as a child for pennies. In her teens, she joined vaudeville tent shows and toured with Ma and Pa Rainey. By the early 1920s, Smith had become a blues star with a style all her own. In 1923, her first record, Downhearted Blues, sold an unprecedented 750,000 records. She recorded more than 100 blues and popular songs and paved the way for future jazz musicians and blues singers.