From the CBMR Library and Archives
Before 1920, African-American popular musicians were largely ignored by the recording industry. In 1920 African-American songwriter Perry Bradford convinced the OKeh recording company to record Vaudeville singer Mamie Smith and a black jazz band performing his song “Crazy Blues.” It was a hit, especially with African-American record buyers, causing OKeh to begin a series of recordings by African-American artists specifically intended for African-American audiences. Other record companies soon followed. The concept of “race records” and of targeting audiences by race or ethnic identity is still a common practice in the recording industry. At the time, however, the published sheet music for a song was still the primary means of its dissemination, although the OKeh recording is prominently advertised.