Ruby Smith

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Ruby Smith
Birth name Ruby Walker
Born (1903-08-24)August 24, 1903
New York, United States
Died March 24, 1977(1977-03-24) (aged 73)
Anaheim, California, United States
Genres Classic female blues[1]
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1938–1947
Labels Bluebird, various

Ruby Smith (August 24, 1903 – March 24, 1977) was an American classic female blues singer. She was a niece, by marriage, of the better known Bessie Smith, who discouraged Ruby from a recording career. Nevertheless, following Bessie's death in 1937, Ruby went on to record twenty-one sides between 1938 and 1947. She is also known for her recorded explicit, and candid observations, on her own and Bessie's lifestyle.[1][2]


She was born Ruby Walker in New York, United States.[1]

She met Bessie Smith in Philadelphia, and after her aunt (by marriage) made her debut recording in February 1923, Ruby joined her on tour in 1924. Ruby assisted off-stage with costume changes, and provided entertainment in the intermissions with her dancing. Although Ruby's thoughts of a career as a singer were initially thwarted in 1926 by Bessie's insistence, Ruby continued to travel with Bessie on tour. In Atlanta, Georgia, Ruby spent a night in the cells after being discovered bringing moonshine for her aunt to consume. In 1927, Ruby was part of the female entourage led by Bessie to the 'buffet flats' in Detroit, Michigan. Her lengthy recorded interview given to Chris Albertson, contained references to this time and others,[2] and the recording became part of Bessie Smith's The Complete Recordings, Vol. 5: The Final Chapter box set.[1][3] Of a particularly "open house" sex show, Smith said, "People used to pay good just to go in there and see him do his act."[4]

Later Jack Gee, Bessie's then husband, once implored Ruby to take the musical stage, after her aunt had walked out in Indianapolis, Indiana. However, the deception did not last long, and in the event Bessie died in 1937.[1] Shortly afterwards, she adopted the stage name of Ruby Smith, and less than a year later recorded six tracks including a cover version of Bessie's "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair Blues." At the same session she waxed her version of the Alex Hill penned, "Draggin' My Heart Around."[1]

In March 1939, Smith under the musical direction of James P. Johnson, recorded "He's Mine, All Mine," and the Bessie Smith co-composition with Johnson, "Backwater Blues". In December 1941, and backed by an ensemble led by Sammy Price, she recorded two more tracks, "Why Don't You Love Me Anymore?" and her own song, "Harlem Gin Blues". Her final recording sessions took place in August 1946 and in January the following year, when she was backed by Gene Sedric's band.[1]

Smith died on March 24, 1977, in Anaheim, California, at the age of 73.[1]

Her recorded work has been made available on several compilation albums, including Jazzin' the Blues (1943-1952), released by Document Records in 2000.[5]


Month/year Track Songwriter Musical direction Record label
1938 "Hard Up Blues" Bluebird
1938 "Dream Man Blues" Bluebird
1938 "Selfish Blues" Bluebird
1938 "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair Blues" Bluebird
1938 "Flyin' Mosquito Blues" Bluebird
1938 "Draggin' My Heart Around" Alex Hill Bluebird
March 1939 "Backwater Blues" Bessie Smith / James P. Johnson James P. Johnson
March 1939 "He's Mine All Mine" Porter Grainger James P. Johnson
1941 "Make Me Love You" Porter Grainger
1941 "Fruit Cakin' Mama" Porter Grainger
1941 "Black Gal" Porter Grainger
1941 "Thinkin' Blues" Bessie Smith
December 1941 "Why Don't You Love Me Anymore?" Walmsley Sammy Price
December 1941 "Harlem Gin Blues" Ruby Smith Sammy Price
August 1946 "Chicago Woman Blues" Lawrence Gene Sedric
August 1946 "Baby, Baby, Baby Blues" Lawrence Gene Sedric
August 1946 "Sedric's Blues" Lawrence / Gene Sedric Gene Sedric
January 1947 "You Satisfy" Les Baxter Gene Sedric
January 1947 "Hot Sauce Susie" Demboe Gene Sedric
January 1947 "I'm Scared of That Woman" Gene Sedric
January 1947 "Port Wine Blues" Gene Sedric


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i arwulf arwulf. "Ruby Smith". Allmusic. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Joseph, Gloria I. (1981). Common differences: conflicts in black and white feminist perspectives (1st ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: South End Press. pp. 183/4. ISBN 0-89608-317-9. 
  3. ^ "Allmusic ((( The Complete Recordings, Vol. 5: The Final Chapter > Review )))". 
  4. ^ George Chauncey, Gay New York: gender, urban culture, and the making of the gay male world, 1890-1940, pp. 250-253, Chapter 8, notes 71, 78 (New York: Basic Books, a division of HarperCollins, 1994). ISBN 0-465-02633-8. Note 71 citing Charles Albertson, Interview with Ruby Smith, as quoted by Eric Garber, "A Spectacle in Color: The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz Age Harlem", in Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (ed. Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey) (New York: New American Library, 1989), pp. 318-333. Note 78 citing Hazel V. Carby, "Policing the Black Women's Body in the Urban Context," in Critical Inquiry (1992) pp. 738-755.
  5. ^ "Allmusic ((( Jazzin' the Blues (1943-1952) > Review )))". 
  6. ^ Koenig, Karl (2002). Jazz in print (1856-1929): an anthology of selected early readings in jazz (1st ed.). Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press. p. 432. ISBN 1-57647-024-5. 
  7. ^ "Sammy Price & The Blues Singers Vol 1. 1938-1941". Retrieved October 9, 2011.