Every week or so, a large manila envelope arrives in the mail, postmarked Wilson, N.C. Inside, a sheaf of xeroxed newspaper clippings from late 19th and early 20th century editions of the Wilson Daily Times. Bobby Boykin is the benefactor, and I thank him mightily, especially when gems like this appear:
Wilson Daily Times, 25 January 1921.
Just a few months past the earth-shattering release of “Crazy Blues,” the first blues recording by a Black artist for a Black audience, Mamie Smith and Jazz Hounds would have been a hot ticket anywhere, much less Wilson. The band played three shows in a single day at the Globe Theatre, Samuel H. Vick‘s vaudeville hall/movie theatre on the second floor of the Odd Fellows Lodge on East Nash Street. Darcy Yancey and Isaac Shade were selling tickets at their respective drugstores.
(If I could time-travel, I’d want not only to see Smith perform at the Globe, but see who saw her perform at the Globe.)
Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds, including Willie “The Lion” Smith on piano, 1920. Donaldson Collection/Getty Images.
2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the release of “Crazy Blues.” For more about the significance of Mamie Smith’s work, see Daphne A. Brooks’ New York Times piece, “100 Years Ago, ‘Crazy Blues’ Sparked a Revolution for Black Women Fans,” published August 10.
Mamie Smith publicity photo, Apeda Studio, New York, circa 1922, in collection of Old Hat Records.