Bessie Brown

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Bessie Brown
Bessie Brown.jpg
Background information
Birth name Bessie Brown
Also known as "The Original" Bessie Brown; Sadie Green, Caroline Lee, and possibly Helen Richards
Born 1890
Origin Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Died 1955
Genres Jazz, classic female blues
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1920s
Labels Pathé (1920s)
Document (1990s compilation)

Bessie Brown (1890 – 1955)[1] also known as "The Original" Bessie Brown, was an American classic female blues, jazz, and cabaret singer. She sometimes recorded under the pseudonyms of Sadie Green, Caroline Lee, and possibly Helen Richards. Brown was active as a recording artist from 1925 to 1929. Her best known tracks were "Ain't Much Good in the Best of Men Nowadays" and "Song from a Cotton Field".

She should not be confused (although often is in both biographies and discographies) with her namesake, Bessie Brown, who recorded vaudeville and blues styled duets with George W. Williams, over a similar timespan.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Brown was born in Marysville, Ohio, United States. She recorded between the dates of November 10, 1925 and April 1, 1929. Her concurrent vaudeville career, saw her appear sometimes as a male impersonator.[3] She also appeared in revues including Moonshine Revue, The Whirl Of Joy and Dark-Town Frolics. In addition, Brown took to the stage as a cabaret performer, primarily on the East Coast.[1] On her recordings she sang in a deepened tone, without any notable African American dialect. Thus, to more than one commentator, her style was similar to Sophie Tucker.[3][4]

Her recordings saw Brown backed by some of the best Harlem based musicians of the time. These included Thomas Morris and Rex Stewart (cornet); Charlie Irvis and Charlie Green (trombone); Coleman Hawkins and Buster Bailey (saxophone); Buddy Christian and Clarence Holiday (banjo); plus Porter Grainger, Clarence Williams and Fletcher Henderson (piano).[3]

She left the music industry in 1932,[1] and married Clarence Shaw in the early 1930s. She had three children, before dying of a heart attack in 1955.[1]

The bulk of her known recorded work, Complete Recorded Works (1925-29), was made available in 1996 by Document Records. Somewhat confusingly, the compilation album also included four October 1929 recordings by the unrelated comedienne, Eliza "Liza" Brown.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d "Bessie Brown". Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ Larkin, Colin (1995). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Volume 1 (2nd ed.). London: Guinness Publishing. p. 570. ISBN 1-56159-176-9. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Allmusic ((( Complete Recorded Works (1925-29) > Review )))". 
  4. ^ Rechniewski, Élizabeth (2005). Sartre's Nausea: text, context, intertext (1st ed.). New York, United States: Rodopi. p. 172. ISBN 90-420-1928-X.