Trixie Smith

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Trixie Smith
Born 1895
Origin Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died September 21, 1943 (age 48)
New York, United States
Genres Blues
Occupation(s) Vocalist, actress
Years active 1920s – 1930s
Labels Black Swan

Trixie Smith (1895 – September 21, 1943) was an African-American blues singer, recording artist, vaudeville entertainer, and actress. She made four dozen recordings.


Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Smith came from a middle-class background.[1] She attended Selma University, in Alabama, before moving to New York City around 1915.[2]

She worked in minstrel shows and on the Theater Owners Bookers Association vaudeville circuit before making her first recordings for Black Swan Records in 1922,[3] among which was "My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)" (1922),[4] written by J. Berni Barbour, of historical interest as the first secular recording to use the phrase rock and roll.[5] Her record inspired various lyrical elaborations, such as "Rock That Thing" by Lil Johnson and "Rock Me Mama" by Ikey Robinson.

Also in 1922, Smith won first place and a silver cup in a blues singing contest in which she sang "Trixie's Blues", competing against Alice Leslie Carter, Daisy Martin and Lucille Hegamin, at the Inter-Manhattan Casino in New York, sponsored by the dancer Irene Castle.[6] She is best remembered for "Railroad Blues" (1925),[3] which features one of her most inspired vocal performances on record, and "The World Is Jazz Crazy and So Am I" (1925). Louis Armstrong played the cornet on both songs.

Smith was a polished performer, and her records include several outstanding examples of the blues, on which she is accompanied by artists such as James P. Johnson, and Freddie Keppard.[7] She recorded with Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra for Paramount Records in 1924 and 1925.

As her career as a blues singer waned, she sustained herself mostly by performing in cabaret revues and starring in musical revues such as New York Revue (1928) and Next Door Neighbors (1928) at the Lincoln Theater in Harlem.[8] She also appeared in Mae West's short-lived 1931 Broadway show, The Constant Sinner. Two years later, Smith was elevated to the stage of the Theatre Guild for its production of Louisiana.[9]

She appeared in four movies: God's Step Children (1938), Swing! (1938), Drums o' Voodoo (1934), and The Black King (1932). Two of these films were directed by Oscar Micheaux.[10] She appeared at the concert From Spirituals to Swing, produced by John H. Hammond, in 1938. She recorded seven titles in 1938 and 1939. Most of her later recordings were with Sidney Bechet for Decca Records in 1938. In 1939 she cut "No Good Man" with a band including Red Allen and Barney Bigard.[11]

Smith died in New York in 1943, after a brief illness, at the age of 48.


Year Title Genre Label
1924 Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, vol. 1: 1922–1924 Blues Document
1939 Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, vol. 2: 1925–1939 Blues Document


  1. ^ Wintz, Cary D. (2004). Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. Taylor & Francis. p. 1129. ISBN 1-57958-458-6.
  2. ^ Santelli, Robert (2001). The Big Book of Blues: A Biographical Encyclopedia. pp. 430–431. ISBN 0-14-015939-8.
  3. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 12. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  4. ^ "Teaching the Journal of American History". Retrieved 2015-08-30. 
  5. ^ Altschuler, Glenn C. (2003). All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America. Oxford University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-19-513943-7.
  6. ^ Oliver, Paul. The Story of the Blues. Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England. page 77. ISBN 1-55553-354-X.
  7. ^ Larkin, Colin (1995). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Guinness. p. 3851. ISBN 1-56159-176-9.
  8. ^ Peterson, Bernard L. (1993). A Century of Musicals in Black and White: An Encyclopedia of Musical Stage Works. Greenwood Press. p. 250. ISBN 0-313-26657-3.
  9. ^ Cullen, Frank (2006). Vaudeville, Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. p. 1051. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.
  10. ^ Trixie Smith at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ Yanow, Scott. Biography for Trixie Smith at AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-04-16.

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