(240)-343-2585

It appears that Bessie started her performing career with her brother in the streets near her home, and then gradually progressing to various roles in Vaudeville and traveling “tent shows” which appeared frequently in Chattanooga due to the town’s strong connections with railway companies. (Scott, 2008, p. 92) Much of this early work was in supporting roles, such as chorus singing. As a young woman without parents to chaperone her, Bessie had a freedom to experience all the excitement, and of course the danger and immorality, that surrounded the music scene in the black communities of the South. Bessie’s singing talent and huge personality made an impression with music publishers and soon she began to record songs made famous by other female singers like Ma Rainey, adding her own personal style, and incidentally creating a fashion for “cover” records which then took hold of the music publishing world. (Davis, 1995, p. 76) Although Bessie Smith died tragically in an automobile accident at the age of only forty-three, she was one of the most distinctive voices of the early Blues period. Bessie Smith’s singing talent was the key to her success but added to this was her larger than life personality and her commanding physique.