Bessie Smith in Blues Music History
Bessie Smith (1894-1937) was known as the "Empress of the Blues," a title appropriate in light of both her talent and demeanor. Smith got her professional start in 1912, when she sang in the same show as Ma Rainey, and recorded a string of hits from 1923 to 1928.
Where Rainey exhibited a strong folk influence, Bessie Smith seemed to exist between blues and jazz and, arguably, brought the emotional intensity of blues singing to jazz arrangements. Bessie Smith also had a larger national following and brought the classic blues to an urban, white audience.