This post is one of a series honoring Black History Month.
Trixie Smith (1895-1943) is no relation to Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, and really no relation to Kate Smith. She is best known for her 1922 recording “My Man Rocks Me With One Steady Roll” which may well be the first appearance of the concepts “rock” and “roll” on record, pointing the way towards a certain popular music phenomenon over three decades down the line. Smith’s background was atypical for a black blues singer. She was from a middle-class family and attended Selma University in Alabama before moving to New York in 1915 to be a singer. She worked night clubs, minstrel shows and black vaudeville before starting the first leg of her recording career, and allowed her to work with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson. She appeared in numerous musical revues through the 1920s. In the 30s, she took up straight acting, appearing in the Mae West vehicle The Constant Sinner (1931) and the Theatre Guild’s production Louisiana (1933). After this, she made four movies from through 1938, two of them directed by pioneering African American director Oscar Michaux. In 1938-39, she made her last several recordings with jazz great Sydney Bichet. And now the moment you’ve been waiting for:
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.