Clara Smith

Decades: 1970s 1990s 2000s


c.1894, Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA, d. 2 February 1935. Singing professionally from her mid-teens in theatres and tent shows throughout the Deep South, by 1923 Smith was a big name in New York. She sang in Harlem clubs, opening her own very popular and successful Clara Smith Theatrical Club. Known as the ‘Queen Of The Moaners’, she was signed by Columbia Records to make records, on some of which she duetted with Bessie Smith. Her instrumental accompanists on record included Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson and James P. Johnson. She worked constantly throughout the late 20s and into the early 30s, mostly in New York but with occasional short tours and residencies at clubs in other cities. She died suddenly from a heart attack on 2 February 1935. Smith sang the blues in a low-down, dragging manner, creating dirge-like yet often deeply sensual interpretations.

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